They kept trying to get my attention. But I was busy. And it was important. I was on the phone with another mother, dealing with some elementary school drama. Yet in my attempt to do what I thought my children needed most, I was ignoring what they needed most: my attention.
They had just found a newborn baby bird, barely alive, on the ground. Alongside it were a few of its siblings who had not been so fortunate. There had been terrible storms the night before and it seemed the nest must have been knocked over.
My children had been crouched around the baby for about 20 minutes when I finally asked them why they needed me. They wanted me to save it. But I was still on my call. My important call. And because of that, along with truly not feeling there was anything to be done for this bird, I told them they had to leave it alone.
Another half an hour passed and my call ended. My kids still were asking me to help. And this baby still struggled. I crouched down with them and watched as its featherless body with translucent skin still slightly moved. Its breaths were few and far between and there were more than a few times that I announced that it had died. But it hadn't. Every time we thought it was over, it would move again.
My children were pleading. They couldn't just leave it out there. I decided to appease them. I figured if we attempted to save it at least they could feel like they had tried. I took two leaves (the leaves themselves were bigger than the baby bird who maybe was the length of my index finger) and put it in a plastic bowl. My children added a few small flowers so that it would look pretty in its 'home' and some grass for padding. And we named it "Lucky" and decided "it" was a "he."
Once Lucky was brought into our house I will admit I kind of fell for him. He was absolutely precious and his fragility and vulnerability got to me. He was so tiny he couldn't even make a sound. We kept him covered with some paper towel for warmth and spoke to him. As the hours passed he began to open his mouth which we interpreted as hunger. After consulting with Dr. Google, we attempted to feed him some water and food with a dropper (warning: the absolutely wrong thing to do with a newborn, they can't swallow yet) Lucky seemed quite comfortable in his temporary home and would snuggle into sleep.
Before my kids went to bed that night I told them to say goodbye. I didn't think Lucky would make it to the morning, so I wanted to forewarn them so they wouldn't be devastated. They asked why I was being so negative. They were right. They would have to deal with the reality the next morning either way, at the very least I could have been optimistic. I promised I would watch him until I went to sleep and make sure he kept breathing and stayed warm. And I did.
First thing in the morning, I heard screams of joy. The kids had woken up early (first time ever) and Lucky had survived. Miraculously, he was moving around and seemed significantly stronger than even a few hours earlier. I called the local animal hospital and they gave me a number to a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center. The center told me to bring him right over. They didn't think they could save him, but told me he would definitely die in our care. So I took my baby bird (yes, I was feeling quite attached) and on my way to the center, drove to my children's schools so they could wish him farewell.
My son insisted on coming with me and held Lucky in the car, talking to him the whole way. When we arrived they immediately took him to an incubator. They gave me a reference number and told me that while we couldn't see him again, we could call in 48 hours and they would update us on his status. We discovered he was a House Sparrow and either had fallen out of his egg when the nest overturned or had been born immediately before we found him. While the owner of the center was as shocked as we were that he had survived the fall, as we left he told us he thought Lucky would make it. I thought he was being nice. My son believed him.
A few days passed and I called. Admittedly my heart was pounding as I waited for them to check the status. Amazingly, Lucky was alive and well! He was growing and they thought in another few weeks he would be strong enough to be released into the wild. My children had saved a life.
Those few weeks have since passed. We have a number of bird nests outside our windows with House Sparrows. And while I am well aware that Lucky was released nowhere near our home, there is one small bird who keeps sitting on a branch near my desk. Perhaps he always was there and I had never noticed. Perhaps he only recently has started to come. But he is my reminder, my daily reminder, to never overlook the opportunities that present themselves, in the strangest of ways, in our lives.
I almost let Lucky die because I was too busy doing something important. I almost let my children down in ignoring what they needed because I was too busy doing what I thought they needed. And I almost lost the opportunity to learn that there are times we do what our loved ones want because that is what they want. Maybe it doesn't seem practical or plausible, but supporting their wishes sometimes is all that matters, even if those wishes don't come true. All the more so when they do.
I have no doubt that in another year they will never remember the incident I was discussing with that other mother. They may not even remember the kid who was involved. But I do believe wholeheartedly that in another 60 or so years, when they will hopefully be sitting with their grandchildren and a House Sparrow flies by, that they will tell my great-grandchildren about Lucky, and how they saved him.
The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, taught that a person can come into this world for an entire lifetime just to do a kindness for another. We may never know what that one life-changing, transformative deed is. We may never know the power of even the seemingly small actions we do. But nothing is for nothing. Everything counts. Everything makes a difference.
I feel so grateful to my children for the lessons they taught me and the opportunity they gave me. Lucky certainly isn't the only one who is lucky.
Sara Esther Crispe is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, where this piece originally appeared. Interinclusion is a multi-layered educational non-profit celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom.