I ran an errand this morning. You know one of those mundane errands that you put off until the very last minute, and then find yourself really pressed to get done. This morning I needed to return a Wi-Fi router to our cable company. So, I drove out to suburban Portland, and waited in the parking-lot for the store to open.
While I was sitting in the car I noticed a goose walking around a rather empty parking lot. What was unique about this goose (we live in the Pacific Northwest and geese are everywhere at this time of year), it seemed to be really stressed. The bird was walking around making a loud, frantic barking noise. The noise felt like a call for help. I watched the goose for a few minutes as it slowly walked around continuously barking and craning its neck in an almost writhing pattern. It looked to me like an animal in real trouble. The goose seemed lost and afraid.
I’m not an ornithologist. I wasn't certain what was going on with the goose; but at one point, I began to feel a little distressed myself. I started to consider who I might call, and whether or not animal protective services would even come out to help. And then something remarkable happened. Another goose flew by and landed about 20 feet away and started barking its own calls. The bird never flew any closer and simply called out. The sound the goose made was very different than the bird I originally encountered wandering around the parking-lot. This new goose barked a steady call that seemed to be saying, “I’m here to help. Let’s go.”
Within a couple of minutes, the goose that was wandering around the parking lot distressed and lost – stopped barking and writhing. The bird seemed to relax. Quickly, the animal purposefully walked toward the other goose and spread its wings in flight. I watched as the two birds united. For a few seconds they seemed to comfort one another, and then flew off.
The experience got me thinking. Where in our lives are we calling for help? And who is coming to our support? So many of us seem to be walking around in an almost stressed uncertainty. Uncertain of our needs. Uncertain how to ask to for help. Uncertain where to turn for support.
Change work - the kind of work that addresses the root causes of disparities, inequalities, and deep need – it’s work grounded in relationship building. It’s the work of listening. It’s the type of work that leads with respect and responds in deeply compassionate ways.
The challenges we are seeking to address in our work – they’re complex. Just this afternoon I was on a call talking about the anemia project and the various complexities that need to be addressed in implementing the project. There are a number of partners, the area where we are working is geographically diverse and the budget is nuanced and complicated. In reality – the whole reason we are undertaking this project is that we received a call from a nutritionist in the Alto Cayma area of Arequipa and he told us of the tremendous anemia in children under 5 years of age and the needs he was witnessing. So, whatever complexity exists in the implementation of the project – the very first step of our work is heeding the call. The very first step is listening.
Watching the geese in the parking-lot of the cable company this morning was a good lesson. A good reminder. Our work is about responding in a way that allows for deep connection. And that starts with listening . . . and heeding the calls for help.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.