(Web photo)Standing in front of the large cage, I watched the small birds flit about. They all looked to be in good shape and healthy, with bright, clear eyes and smooth plumage. Many sported brightly colored throats, wings, or cheeks and all had the short, heavy beak typical of a finch. One in particular caught my eye.
Unlike the others, this one was not particularly attractive, being a plain brown with no distinguishing markings. It hopped back and forth between the perches; although its feathers were a bit scraggly, it looked healthy and alert, cocking its head and looking at me. The decision was made quickly. Gently and efficiently catching the small bird, the clerk asked if I was sure I wanted this one. As she placed it into the small cardboard box, I assured her that I did. After all, it was a special gift for a special person.
My mother had kept pet birds for years, usually a canary. I never thought to ask when or why she began, but had grown up with the sounds of their songs in the bay window of our kitchen. Recently she had begun to keep finches and we all were enjoying these lively little birds. Although busy with working in the family business and caring for our family, she always managed to keep their cage clean, their food and water cups full, and to have a daily conversation with them. But when one of the birds died unexpectedly, leaving the other all alone, I decided to surprise her with a new one. For me this was a major decision and a bold step, but after telling my dad of my plans and borrowing the family car, off I went to the town pet shop.
Full of excitement over my purchase, I presented Mom with the box. She could tell what was inside - she just didn't know the specifics. Carefully holding the box up to the open cage door, she watched as the new bird emerged. "WELL", she said. "It looks just like an old crow!" My heart did a flip-flop and I suddenly felt very ashamed. Mom studied me briefly, then she smiled and her eyes twinkled as she said: "SO, that's just what we'll call him. Crow. He is a cute little devil, isn't he?" And then, relieved that she liked him at least a little, my explanation tumbled out: how sorry I felt for this little bird, all the other birds were so beautiful but he was just so brown and plain. Sure that no one else would buy him, I feared he would be left all alone with no one to care for him. I knew that she'd accept and take good care of him - maybe even love him after awhile.
Crow lived for many years, not that his personality changed much. He still mostly just hopped back and forth in the cage and had a strange little chirp that he repeated over and over. Today we might decide that he had a psychological disorder common to caged animals, but we knew of no such a thing back then. He had been molting when I bought him but when his new feathers emerged, although he was still a plain brown, he looked very sleek and healthy. He always cocked his head and looked at you.
My mother did indeed take good care of Crow and we all grew to love him. More importantly, she looked beyond the superfluous surface details into the well-intentioned heart of the giver and was willing to accept this odd gift wholeheartedly. And, it turns out - with great amusement!
For if the willingness is there,
the gift is acceptable according to what one has,
not according to what he does not have.
2 Corinthians 8:12
A gift opens the way for the giver
and ushers him into the presence of the great.