Sparrow in the terminal

Sitting in the Rochester airport on April 4th waiting for our delayed flight to Chicago to arrive, I decided to take walk down the concourse. As I walked to an unoccupied gate area out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of brown above me. Looking up I saw a sparrow perched on the inside ledge of the skylight.  Here was the sparrow on the inside of the terminal looking out.

The bird seemed at home – as if acclimated to the terminal. There was no furious beating of wings as if the bird were trying to get beyond the glass. No frantic sense of the bird suddenly being captive.   As I watched it flew to the carpet to retrieve some sort of crumb or tidbit someone had dropped. Another brief flight sat it on the window ledge above me. There she sat looking out at the world beyond the glass. I became aware of a sense of forlornness within me watching this scene unfold. There was something deeply disturbing about it.

I realized this wild bird had probably flown in probably through an open baggage door somewhere and unable to retrace her path had become trapped within the terminal. This trapped bird is not able to return to the world for which she was created. Instead she lives in this foreign, temperature controlled, world without grass, insects, or even other birds, able only to look at the natural world separated by a barrier. In some ways she is safer as the temperature is controlled, there is food though not the best or most natural and there are no natural predators coming after her. Sitting on the ledge the skylight I can sense her deep desire to be where she was meant to be.

Why did this affect me so much? Perhaps because we are all trapped by circumstances and barriers in our life that prevent us from being part of the world for which we were created. But unlike the sparrow we may not even know we are living in an artificial world rather than in God’s kingdom for which we were created. We seem content to live in our artificial world of consumerism, power and status. We live in the engineered world of the mall and only occasionally gaze with longing at the world beyond the barrier. We like the sparrow no longer try to get to that natural world – no longer try to find out way to where we really belong. To do the things that we were created to do.

We have become deaf to God’s call for us to become who we were created to be. Like the sparrow was not created to live in an airport terminal so we were not created for a world focuses on ourselves alone. I pray that the sparrow in the terminal will be able to escape the artificial world of which she is now a part – before it kills her. And I pray the same for me and for you!


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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