Sunday, February 27, 2011

Each Time Somone Shows That They Care

My parents didn't hire many babysitters while I was young. At least I don't have any recollections of that one special babysitter. But if they did I am sure I would have wanted Mary Poppins to walk through the door with that spoonful of sugar and umbrella in hand.

Mary Poppins was iconic in so many ways. She embodies the characteristics I hold dear: Compassion, strength, sense-of-humor, musicality, and purpose.

In fact, of any Disney film (besides 'The Little Mermaid') it is the songs of this classic story that still ring within my heart, soul and mind. The list of songs alone takes me back to a time of youthful bliss:
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, I Love to Laugh, Let's Go Fly a Kite, to name a few. One of the songs Stay Awake, inspired me to create a bed time song for my own children, simply titled by my children, "The Wonderful Song."

Mary's whole persona is summed up in the song Jolly Holiday:

Oh, it's a jolly 'oliday with Mary Mary makes your 'eart so light! When the day is gray and ordinary Mary makes the sun shine bright! Oh, 'appiness is bloomin' all around 'er The daffodils are smilin' at the dove When Mary 'olds your 'and you feel so grand Your 'eart starts beatin' like a big brass band It's a jolly 'oliday with Mary No wonder that it's Mary that we love!

The songs, many accompanied with Dick Van Dyke's splendid Cockney accent, reverberate to this day with a hopeful, blissful emotion that carried it's young fans to another place and time. Like so many parents, Jane and Michael's were preoccupied with life outside the home. Although set in a different time period, many of the 50's and 60's moms and dads mimicked the rolls of that of the Bank's parents.

Somehow, without even knowing it, I listened to the LP of this movie (remember, this was all pre-VHS era) to escape into a place where not only did I identify with Banks children, but dreamed too that a Mary would come into my life and sing away all my sadness.

Thinking back to my youth, I clearly remember the effect of walking into my 4th grade classroom for the first time to meet the 'new teacher.' Miss Wildman had shoulder length, dark brown hair, a cute button nose, a smile that showed she cared and I was pretty sure she had a jar of sugar in her drawer. I was immediately in love with her.

Empathy and compassion are the two words that describe my memories of that year. Miss Wildman was without a doubt the grade school teacher that evokes the most emotion from me even now as I approach the golden years of my life. Miss Wildman was my Mary Poppins.

As a child, I was prone to creating illnesses in an effort to keep from going to school. (I compensated for this with my children by giving them plenty of 'excused absences' for mental health days.) After a while, they didn't believe my cries of wolf. When my parents sent me to school with the mumps, it was Miss Wildman that rescued me with a phone call to my mom to come pick me up, as it was obvious my throat was swollen.

Children need compassion in their lives. Growing up is hard to do. Compassion is one of the most important gifts we can give to our children: to all mankind for that matter. Life can be hard.

When I sat down to write today I was focused on the 25 or so birds that were feeding in my backyard. Typically when I 'bird watch' from my kitchen window a song rolls through my mind: You guessed it. Feed the Birds.

We've had new visitors to our backyard eatery, two migratory birds: the Townsend's Warbler and the White Throated Sparrow, which kind of looks like a Black-Throated Gray Warbler. This time of year is so much fun as the local birds mix it up with the visitors. The cold-arctic blast ushers in a first row seat to the ever changing cast of the stage.

Most of the drama is kept to a minimum. Occasionally the resident Harris Hawk makes an appearance. Silence is the clue to his arrival. Only once has tragedy struck when the remanents
of a Dove appeared on my front walkway. (See my Facebook photo album "Murder on Oxford."

As I sit hear writing I noticed that the songs of the singers in my backyard had stopped. I got up just in time to see the large wing span of a hawk flying overhead. Everyone flew for cover. As soon as the danger had passed the birds came back and the singing resumed. I love nature.

Feeding the birds is an expense my sweet husband allows, without guilt: he enjoys the show too. We have a joked about the Spotted Towhee that Wade declared spotting. To an untrained eye they look a lot like Robins.

He did see a Towhee, at least I know they are around. Just saw one today. You have been verified, Wade. :)

For our 25 wedding anniversary Wade and I traveled for 10 days to England and Scotland. We had two lovely days in London. While we didn't have much time we had to pick our sites to visit with great care. Top on my list was St. Paul's cathedral so I could feed the birds, and sing the song. As we neared the beautiful stone structure we were soon keenly aware that my dreams were going to be dashed by the sights and sounds of construction. The closest I could get was across the street from the steps of St. Paul. There was no bird woman with bags full of crumbs nor were their birds nor were there any birds filling the skies.

At the time it was a bitter disappointment for me. Although Wade urged me to stand as close as I could to the steps, it was far from what I imagined. My mood was foul and the song was lost in the honking and squawking made by humans, not birds.

Aside from all that, this story is about compassion. As you weave through these lines you will find elements compassion Mary Poppins, the Bird Woman of the song, my husband, and the simple act of buying bird seed and nuts for those feathered visitors in my backyard.

All of these are examples of what I believe God wants us to have for each other. Feeding the poor, helping the helpless, a kind word during troubled times, encouragement for the faint of heart.

Sometimes it is easier to shower compassion upon the animal creatures who share this tiny planet with us humans. I've heard it said that you can tell if someone has compassion for humankind by the way their treat animals. The opposite is true as well.

When my son Jesse was 3 years old, it was obvious that he had the gift of compassion. It was evidenced by so many examples, even as a young child. An incident at church one Sunday it forever etched in my mind. At the time we attended a large church. Jesse was standing next to Wade and I as we waited for the previous service to exit. All of a sudden Jesse began to cry. In his darling little voice he exclaimed that he felt bad for that little girl. Looking at the direction he was pointing I saw a little girl, not much older that Jesse, who's mom was bend over kissing the little girls finger. Jesse escaped my grasp and went over to her where he stared at her. I walked the few steps over to where the three stood and heard the mom explain to Jesse that the little girl got her finger shut in the door. I knew then by my little boys reaction that compassion would be something that came easy to him. Still true to this day.

I usually have a point to these ramblings. Here it is.

We all need to help each other along the way in life. All the social network options makes this pretty easy as opportunities to emote are readily available.

Look around you. See the people in your life who need a bag of compassion. Unlike the bird woman's crumbs, giving compassion is free.

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