Growing up, my family had a lot of birds. We had parakeets, cockatiels, love birds, and finches. They started out as pets, but as they procreated we soon began selling to the local pet stores. At one point we had more than sixty parakeets living in our house. My favorite bird was a blue parakeet named Percy. He could talk, saying things like ‘pretty bird’ and ‘hello’ and several other words that have slipped my memory. The most memorable thing about Percy is that he was caught in the wild.
Parakeets are not native to the skies of East Tennessee. Yet, during my childhood there were several instances in which a stray one happened to fly into our neighborhood. My mom was particularly skilled at catching the feathered creatures.
All of the birds we caught were likely former pets. They had either escaped or been released by their owner. Either way, surviving a strange new environment would have been difficult for a former pet.
I had a neighbor named Robert. He was a big man, “six-foot-nine and a quarter,” he told everyone. He weighed about 350, had a beard like Santa Claus. Robert had a noticeable stutter that was magnified anytime he got excited about something.
One day the phone rang and my mom answered. I was across the room but could hear an excited voice on the line, “Na…Na…Na…Nancy…B…b….b….b…bird, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a p…it’s a pa” Another stray parakeet had found its way to our neighborhood. This one was in a tree in Robert’s front yard. He knew that my mom was the person to call for help.
We walked across the street and saw our neighbor looking up at the tree. He was too close to it and talking too loudly. He was about to scare it away. He backed away from the tree and my mom took over.
She began her bird whispering, and it appeared to be working. The feral parakeet was interested and hopped a few branches closer. After a while, we walked to our house to retrieve an empty bird cage. All we asked of Robert was that he keep an eye on the bird, to let us know if it flew to another tree.
When we returned with the cage and some food, we found Robert back under the tree. He was talking to the bird trying to convince it to come to him. “Get down here!” And then in a move that still makes absolutely no sense to me, he picked up some small rocks of gravel, and tossed them and the bird. He chunked the rocks at the bird while saying “get down here pretty bird!” Needless to say, the frightened bird flew away never to be seen again. I still laugh when I think about it. He had no idea that he had done anything to scare the bird.
This story came to my mind today as I picked up a pamphlet beside a vending machine. The pamphlet had a picture of the devil on the front cover, red with horns and a pitchfork. Inside was a story about Halloween and how Satan’s followers are killing teenagers in sacrifice. It tells that all are destined for hell and gives a list of wicked things being done in this generation. My paraphrase of the track is like this: “bad thing, bad things, hellfire, brimstone, everlasting doom unless you believe in Jesus right now at this moment because you might die immediately after reading this.”
Throwing rocks at a parakeet.
The tone of approach we use in general conversation, in public discourse, or on social media is often inappropriate. I remember the perplexed look on Robert’s face. He threw rocks at a bird and wondered why it flew away. We often cast stones at nonbelievers and wonder why they don’t want to hear about Jesus.
Do you know why parakeets always showed up at my house? Do you know how we saved them? We did not go out looking for birds. They heard the birds we already had. They heard the joyous singing of the parakeets that lived there. The singing attracted them. We did not cast stones at them and tell them that the world would kill them. We simply placed our other birds on the porch and left a door open. The wild parakeet could not help but be drawn in.
Maybe we should stop casting stones and start loving one another. Start celebrating the joy that we have in Christ. And we should leave the door open to all those that are drawn to us, and be ready to share the reason for our hope.