Last night when I was out walking I came upon a baby sparrow. The bird was sitting on the sidewalk, rocking back and forth a little, blinking its eyes (or so it seemed!). At first I thought it was injured, but then it hopped a bit and pecked at the green leaf of a clover, as if nothing was wrong. As I stood there for a while, just a few feet away, it occurred to me that this bird was so young and so innocent, it didn’t even seem to know how to be afraid.
Of course, that got me thinking, especially when I reached the top of my hill and came across a hungry stray cat. Fortunately, he wasn’t headed in the bird’s direction, so I’m hoping that he didn’t come across it. In any case, the baby bird reminded me of what it must be like to look at the world with eyes of wonder, without doubt or judgment, without fear or terror, without expecting anything bad to come your way. Standing just a few feet from the bird was an odd feeling; knowing I had the power to scare or hurt it (though of course I never would!), feeling the bird’s awareness of my presence, sensing that it somehow knew it was safe.
As humans, we all learn to be afraid (I, for one, really aced this ability!)...of snakes, bees, public speaking, of clowns wearing funny hats, erupting volcanoes, etc. Of course, fear can be a very good thing—after all, without it we could get ourselves into some terrible scrapes. But there was a time, early in our lives, when even if a lion approached we might have just gurgled or cooed. I'm not suggesting that we gurgle at muggers, terrorists or approaching trucks when we’re crossing the road, but sometimes, I think we would do well to retrieve a little of that innocent trust.
Yes, we need to be savvy and tough to survive in this often frightening, often violent world. But when we sense that we’re truly safe, it sure feels great to simply peck at the clover and chill.