Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's Local!

Living in a small community is a lot like sitting near a pond and dropping pebbles to watch the ripples move outward. It is possible to see the effect of events ripple across the community. It invokes a certain solemnity to important life events that can be lost in the impersonal life of a city.

Last week there was a fatal car accident at the edge of town. I first learned of it on the church's Facebook page where one of my pastors posted:
"Hearing reports of a fatal car accident in BP this morning. God who shines light in the darkness, we pray for those involved and their family or families...and thank you, God, for our local first responders who answered a difficult call to serve today. Lord, in your mercy,"
The post elicited a flurry of  Hear-our-prayers responses, and undoubtedly set many people to praying. I was one of them. The local news reported that there had been a one car accident and that there were three people in the car, and one was killed, one was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and one person was uninjured.

Later in the day I heard more details: It was a woman and a couple. . . The man had died at the scene. . . He hadn't been wearing a seatbelt. . . The woman was their daughter. . .They were from a nearby town. . . The helicopter had come from Mayo but was too late. . . The victim wasn't wearing a seatbelt because he had a colostomy bag. . .  Thursday morning I learned that one of the EMTs who responded was the woman who teaches 8th grade confirmation. She said it was a very difficult morning. And that it had been her third morning ambulance call that week.

Thursday night I went to hear a biologist speak on the prairie bio-sphere. (Coincidentally, he also teaches 8th grade confirmation!) His talk was mainly focused on the plant life of the prairie but he couldn't resist sharing some information about cowbirds. Cowbirds are those big birds you see where ever there are cattle (or bison). They follow the herd, and so never build a nest anywhere. Consequently, they lay their eggs in other bird's nests, and the babies are hatched and nurtured by other birds. The nests are carefully chosen, and the cowbird incubation period is slightly shorter than that of the other eggs in the nest, so the cowbird is almost always the first hatched and gets the best care and feeding of the nestlings.

It would seem that one more egg in the clutch wouldn't make a bit of difference - but anyone who has raised a family knows that every time you add another child, yours or someone else's, there will be ripples (and sometimes tsunamis!) The same is true for the cowbirds. For healthy species of birds it poses few problems, but for certain endangered species the presence of even one more egg can have a very negative impact so the cowbird eggs may sometimes have to be relocated again, by people, to protect the other eggs in the nest.

Small changes can have a big impact. A tiny patch of ice, an adopted egg, and confirmation teachers who are intimately involved in life and death, can spread ripples that will go on and on. Perhaps a Texan dropped into a small town in Minnesota will cause a few ripples too. What we do matters. Thanks be to God!