The Bird and the Man in the Red Car

Judith Peck, Ed.D.

The red car was positioned at an angle behind the bird, its rear jutting out into the road, as if stopped in unintended haste. Situated behind the bird, his car could not have been the one that struck it. The driver must have seen it lying in the road, as I did driving a car behind him, then pulled over to the side.

I slowed down and when I saw the man step out of his car and approach the stricken bird, I was compelled to pull off the road and watch. The bird, a small one, perhaps a sparrow, lay in the road flapping its wings spasmodically, unable to move. Cars approaching behind me drove around the bird slowly, rubbernecking, as they might in any accident occurring in their path.

The man stood over the bird for a second or two assessing its injury then bending, gently scooped up the bird, cradling it in his handkerchief. He took a few steps and set it safely in the grass, distant from the road bed. There, it had a chance to recover, or not; ravaged by a cat, a predatory bird, or not. But its perils would not include another speeding car.

The man’s act of kindness moved me profoundly. The purity of his feelings transferred to spontaneous action. To feel the bird’s helplessness—a bird, some might say—and involve oneself in its peril. Motion, mind and body brought together to help, whether or not survival was even possible. Reward for the man in the red car was only to do the deed. Not what others passing by would surely do, myself included: bemoan the happening, feel sadness for the bird, vaguely hope the bird would survive or someone or something would come along to put it out of its misery. But for this man in the red car, passing by was harder than stopping.

Kindness. The sense that the outer world in all its human, animal or natural forms belongs to you—attached to you by invisible threads, consciously or instinctively. And conversely, that you are not alone within it; that it is yours and you are theirs.  And so there is external reward to the man in the red car after all. For he is attached by his act of kindness to all of nature, and to me by my seeing the act. And though I did not stop to help the bird but merely watched, I felt peaceful that the bird was moved to safety. I am attached to his act of kindness, feeling cared for and not alone.