I left for my run this morning anxious about the day ahead. I have slightly more on my plate today than usual, and the run was another checkmark on the to-do list.
A few steps outside my apartment complex I spotted something flailing on the sidewalk. My mind tried to dismiss it as leaves caught under a rock, but I knew it was an animal.
Once I got close I saw that it was a colorful bird on its back, quite alive but unable to turn itself over. Uncertain about its current mood in a fight/flight situation (no pun intended), I used my foot to gently turn it over. I expected him to fly away immediately.
Sadly, the bird just looked up at me once it was right-side up. It flapped its wings helplessly, and I couldn’t figure out if a wing or leg was broken. I wondered where the bird was from, since the typical brown city birds were the only others gathered nearby.
As I stood there wondering what to do, an old Hindu woman (bindi dot prominently placed) approached, concerned. “Is it alive?”
“Yes,” I said, as I bent down to pet it gently with a finger, diseases be damned.
“Do you have water?” she asked me, as well as others passing by who appeared unconcerned. No one had water.
We both frowned at the little creature, and I suggested we move him to the grass so he wasn’t stepped on or run over by a bike, which I believed was the incident that left him like that in the first place.
The stranger cupped him in her hands, mumbling something repeatedly to him in a language I couldn’t identify, but she said it in the manner a mother would repeatedly say “It’s ok, it’s ok…” to a crying child. She pet him and mentioned water again. I don’t think either of us had very high hopes for the little guy, and I was beginning to feel quite sad about the situation.
“He will have a better life next time,” she said simply.
I felt a ping of hope. It made me feel silly, of course, but being raised Christian we didn’t talk often about animals’ afterlife. The more I learned about Christianity, the more I learned that many denominations don’t believe animals will have an afterlife, as they don’t have souls.
In Hinduism, from the little I know, the soul passes through multiple stages of reincarnation, or samsara. The bird’s next life would be as a non-fish/bird animal, before reaching its pinnacle form as a human.
As we both walked off from the animal, the woman suddenly found a small container, and excitedly ran back up to the place she had left the bird. When I returned from my run half an hour later, the bird was no longer there. I hope she found a way to nurse it back to health, or at least to give it some comfort.
My perspective on the day was shifted by this small incident. I felt a larger connection with the world, and acknowledged my miniscule role in the process, regardless of religious beliefs.