So…in some parts of the world (specifically mine) Mother Nature opted to skip spring this year and instead fast-forwarded to the golden hues and blazing temperatures of summer. However, despite the disguised weather, there were still some poignant signs of spring. If you were paying attention.
For instance, during one of these unnaturally warm days, I was walking along my street, reveling in the bursting foliage, vibrant blooms and cheerful dog walkers. Like a bear awakened from hibernation, the neighborhood had shed its winter gloom and was invigorated with life.
In the midst of this idyllic setting, I noticed something flutter from a tree. It was grey-ish brown and took a haphazard route, at times hovering, fighting gravity in a way a leaf never could.
When I got closer, I noticed it was a baby bird; no bigger than a pebble, its erratic motions and eager flaps suggested this was its first voyage from the nest. I watched the tiny creature begin to grasp the concept of flying, chirping proudly as it made a safe landing.
I marveled at him. So miniscule and yet, so courageous.
Caught in my awestruck reverie, I didn’t notice the car until it was bearing down on my tiny friend. He tried to flee but was still clumsy with his wings, unable to gain lift-off and avoid the speeding wheel that rolled over him as though he didn’t even exist.
I recoiled, horrified, unable to even glance at the exploded remains on the road. The worst part was the sound, like a half-cooked pancake dropped on the floor. It echoed in my head for the rest of the day.
The car raced off, oblivious.
I replayed the scene in my mind, overcome by the stark contrast between the potential of young life and its sudden tragic end; I needed some semblance of understanding. How did that happen?
I blamed the driver. The car was red, sporty, the kind that draws attention and gets bought specifically for that purpose. A fast car for the fast lane. And isn’t that where we all strive to be? Living in fifth gear, no time for precious moments, so preoccupied we speed right past them. Or worse, right over them.
Then again…if it hadn’t been a car that got that little bird, it could easily have been a real predator—an eagle or one of those happy hounds I’d been admiring earlier. The moment he left his nest, he assumed an inherent risk, a survival destined to encounter struggles. Anyone who’s attempted the unprecedented is familiar with that painful truth.
As I replayed the scene yet again, I realized there was another party complicit in the poor misfortune of that baby bird: me.
Maybe it wasn’t just that the driver had been going too fast. Maybe I’d been going too slow. Even though the angle of the road obscured my view of the car, if I’d been paying better attention—or different attention—maybe I would have heard it. Then I could have run out. Stopped it.
Not to downplay Aesop’s valuable lesson about ‘slow and steady,’ but as any paramedic would no doubt agree, there is a time for fifth gear (assuming ambulances have fifth gears).
I suppose the point is knowing when to floor it. When you’re absorbed in your own life…or when you’re racing to save someone else’s?