The other morning, I went to the basement to do laundry. Our cat, Andre, came racing excitedly out of the unfinished, roughed out "bedroom." I looked to see what was going on. Outside of the "bedroom" window, two birds, one bigger and one smaller, were hopping and flapping their wings frantically. They were below ground level, in the little semi-circular space outside the window.
The larger bird managed to hop onto the ground, then hopped right back into the semicircular hole. I didn't know if he was being a bird brain or trying to show the other bird how to get out. The other bird continued to hop and flap, but was unable to rise from the hole.
I considered trying to save the smaller bird, but thought, he's close to getting out, and I'll just scare him. However, when I went back down to check laundry, he was still there, desperately flapping, and his companion was gone. (As a bit of background, due to some early childhood experiences, I tend to be frightened of animals.)
OK, I thought, I'll find something to scoop him up with. So I put on my coat, found a basket and small wastecan and headed towards the side of the house. I realized my reluctance to do this was not so much that I knew I would scare the bird half to death as that I would end up being startled by his unpredictable movements. My experience in these cases is that a bird will sit very still, then all of sudden start flapping and flying crazily at you, so you have to brace yourself for the commotion.
When I circled around to the side of the house, the bird was gone. I scooped out all the leaves in front of the submerged window, but no bird was among them, dead or alive. I could only imagine hearing me coming had terrified him enough to give him the adrenaline surge he needed to escape. Needless to say, I was relieved.
It occurred to me as I got involved in this bird salvation mission, that one of the things I I fear most is fear in others. I would rather avoid an encounter with a fearful animal or human that could veer into something unpredictable, into a great flapping of wings flying at me at any moment, into an encounter with chaos and misunderstanding, than get involved.
However, I also realized that when I can't avoid it, I will act. It would have been a bungle, but I would have gotten the bird free. So I am trying to remember that even awkward acts to reach out are better than doing nothing. I am trying to keep to a mindset of reaching out. So my question is, how do you overcome your fear of the other -whatever is other to you--enough to act? How do you allow yourself to be vulnerable?