My brother and his family are in town visiting from Maryland. We don't seem them nearly enough (how much is enough?) so when we are together, like so many families separated by long distance, we talk, and talk, and talk. The other day when we were together, my sister-in-law Jane told me a story about my niece that I decided I needed to tell. Because we all think we know things to be true, but do we really?
The story goes: Jane was in their garage one day (they live in rural Maryland) when a very large bird flew in threw the open doors and began throwing itself against their windows in the garage in an attempt to get out. She said it thrashed about the window for a minute and then fell. Set against the window, they have a sports equipment organizer used to collect balls and rackets and such that is made from metal grids (like this if you need a visual aid). The bird fell between the window and the metal grid and was kind of stuck.
Jane said she opened the door to the house and called for help thinking that two people could use tennis rackets to shoo the bird out the door. Instead of my big, strong brother coming to the rescue, my niece Rachel came. Now you have to know my niece to understand the full impact of this story. She is a beautiful, svelte, blond princess of a girl (young adult). She loves people -- everybody -- and she loves animals. In fact, she loves animals so much that she is a vegetarian. To her, eating an animal is like catching and killing and butchering the animal. It's all rolled up into one big evil act. So she abstains. She doesn't preach, she just abstains.
When Rachel saw the bird trapped where it had fallen and was still struggling, she carefully crept to the window, slowly reached her hand in through one of the metal grids, scooped the bird up in one hand, and pulled it back through the square. She took a few steps to just outside the garage door, placed the bird on the ground and watched it fly away.
Jane just could not believe what she had seen. Not only had Rachel taken it completely upon herself to act, to take hold of the bird, but she couldn't believe the bird had not struggled at all. This very wild animal had allowed itself to be caught in human hands.
Jane exclaimed that it was incredible what Rachel had done, and how the bird reacted -- she was awestruck.
To which Rachel replied, "Mom, animals just know when you don't eat meat."
And when Jane told me that, I laughed out loud. It sounded like something my own eight-year-old daughter would say, except she would say, "Mom, animals just know when you're a princess" or something equally fairytale. It was outrageous, ludicrous, nonsensical.
Or was it? After I laughed (and Jane admitted that she had to control herself from laughing out loud when Rachel said it), I started thinking, Who am I to say it isn't true? What do I know? I don't think that this is something science can prove or disprove, and if Rachel believes that animals sense they are "safe" with her, who am I to say it's untrue? Who am I to be amused?
It's a lesson we as Christians learn all the time being on the receiving end of ridicule for believing in something science will never prove. We can never grab on to the physical evidence of our God and say "See! I told you He was real." We have faith that our God exists, and that is all we need. Just faith.
PS I told my mother-in-law this story and she remarked that Rachel had some great Franciscan qualities. We both wondered if St. Francis was a vegetarian. Anyone out there know the answer?