Show Up

Bird Watching

There’s this robin that’s always having a worm snack on the corner of our deck railing. It’s become the expected view out of the kitchen window. No matter when you look, there she is perched with a worm dangling out of her beak. Sometimes I pause to see if she eats the worm. She never does. I’ve been wondering if maybe it’s the same worm, kinda like when I was little and put my gum on my bedpost at night and then popped it back in my mouth the next morning. Thirteen straight days one piece of gum lasted, and then I started again with a fresh piece. Does she stick the worm under the railing and then pluck it out and start chewing again?

At first, when we saw her we would call for the rest of the family. “Guys! Come look at this!” Everyone would come running and watch and smile a little at the view (or feel sorry for the worm).

After a few days, she didn’t seem so remarkable anymore. I began wondering who was going to clean up her mess and how we could keep her away from the deck. I stopped noticing the varying shades of red on her breast and the black tip on the end of her yellow beak. I stopped asking questions about the worm. The robin became commonplace.

Then one day, coming home from a run, I noticed a mound of twisted orange fuzz and black feathers pointing in all the wrong directions. My eyes went where my heart wanted to avoid. There, on the edge of the road, was a lump of robin.

Is it my robin? The thought tumbled through my mind and surprised me when it caught in my throat. I slowed down and walked past the feathers, wondering if I would recognize my robin. Would I notice the way she was rust near the top of her breast and cinnamon toward the center? Would I see the way her feathers lightened near her left eye? The only thing I knew for sure was the lump of bird at my toes was forming a lump in my throat.

Now there’s a void in my view from the kitchen window and a hole in my heart that doesn’t make sense. I didn’t want that pesky robin hanging around the deck in the first place. I told her to go find a new place to chew on her worm, the worm I felt sorry for, because, of all the worms out there, how did that one get to be so particularly unlucky?

I shouldn’t miss my robin. All she did was show up, but somehow it mattered. It makes me think that maybe I spend too much time planning what I should do, and I miss the thing that matters most.

You just show up and then figure out what to do after you’re there. Sometimes the problems in the world seem so big and when I try to think through to a solution, I can’t find a plan. Instead of showing up, I’m still trying to figure out what to do.

I think it’s this very conundrum that James was talking about when he wrote: What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 

I’m not even sure it matters what you do. The robin chewed on a worm and it changed me. Rather than trying to figure out a plan to change the world, I think I just need to show up and do something — a little something to make one corner of the world a little bit better.

Simply by showing up and doing whatever needs to be done.

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