AN IMPORTANT LIFE LESSON LEARNT IN LOCKDOWN 2020
A strange little birdie flew into our house yesterday. It had blackish-brown wings that spanned a broad distance for a small bird and I can’t be too certain for the flurry in which it was whizzing above our heads, but it seemed to me to be yellow-breasted. My 7-year-old saw it first, shrieked, followed by squeals of excitement from the 2-year-old. The little fellow almost started mimicking the bird, zipping past all the rooms, then out through the door and back in. So now I had a bird, ready to hit the fan and two kids on my hand, one horrified that it could be a bat and the other excited to finally have a visitor after 4 months. It had just turned dark, at about 7:30 pm. Random thoughts started flying through my head – I had a call at 8, could the bird be a bat, does it mean I have to clean the entire house to get rid of whatever it will drop in all the frenzy, where was the husband and why does it take him so long to pick up a courier from the lobby, it must be scared, I need to switch off all the fans, how did it come in?
Once DH came back home and gave everything a few tries and nothing worked, we called a friend who has always been a bird whisperer (?). Her first thought was – the bird must be tired and thirsty from all the activity, can we keep a bowl of water in the room she is trapped in? We did. Then turn by turn, DH and I managed to get in (the corona face shield coming handy) and opened the two windows in the room. And turned out the lights so it could find the light outside and fly away in that direction. My 2nd grader tried checking with google for some answers – especially trying to figure if it was a bat – and she got some weird results about birds and spirits and why it was not such a good thing. This was the last piece of information I needed, because this girl can get really wound up about things she doesn’t fully understand. She can be a worrier. Phew! Wonder where she gets it from.
After 30 more mins of turmoil, during which time we asked a maintenance staff member to come up and help us – they couldn’t believe such an unusual bird had flown in into the 18th floor – what can I say? (it must be some spirit, maybe), the bird finally found its exit route and we all heaved a collective sigh of relief.
And then as I went back to making dinner and juxtaposed my first reactions with that of the friend, we spoke to, I realised how much of my thoughts are centred on myself. Thinking of the plight of the bird and then everyone who was suffering the lockdown for various reasons, many of whom were really dealing with more than their fair share of adversity, my thoughts latched on to the mockingbird and the strange connection it seemed to have with this experience. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” It was 11th July – the book’s anniversary. Now, this was all seeming stranger than I would have liked. ‘To kill a mockingbird’ is one of the earliest and most profound influences on my thinking about race, courage, compassion, gender roles, parenting and most prominently prejudice against the ‘other’.
Who are the mockingbirds in our life and world? Who are we ‘othering’? We only need to look closer home to realise that we do it all the time. Mockingbirds are destroyed all the time. Whether it’s at home, at work, in the market, on the road or in the pub – we know the hierarchy of power and struggle. We know whose life is valued and whose is not. I just got reminded to see people for who they are, the hardship they face and not for the value they provide us. As Atticus would say towards the end of the novel – “Most people are nice when you finally see them”