My heart sank last Wednesday when I saw that one of the fields where I have been observing Eastern Meadowlark activity this summer had been mowed! Granted, that particular field had not been included in the original monitoring plans, but in the last two weeks I had documented nesting activity there, and so I had hoped—
For about an hour, I walked the mowed field, looking and listening and occasionally turning over clumps of hay to peer underneath, but I found no sign of the birds. I went home in tears, grieving for what I was sure had been lost.
There is some good news in this story. When I went back in the afternoon, I spotted four Meadowlarks there, two adults, I think, and two of their young. What a relief that they had survived the mowing! Still, their nest had been wrecked and their cover destroyed. Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing to say this, but they looked the way people do when they return to their homes after a devastating storm has struck their neighborhood. They seemed disoriented, stunned and confused.
The next day at the village post office, I happened to overhear a woman I have met only briefly at church on Sunday mornings say to someone else, “I know they are only children, but….” When she saw me, her words trailed off. I pretended not to have heard. She lowered her voice to finish her sentence. The only other word I heard was “aliens.”
Again my heart sank, for it was clear what she was talking about. The look of the displaced Meadowlarks came to mind—along with the recognition that it is a relatively simple thing to address the problem of Meadowlark habitat protection. You simply acknowledge the need and postpone mowing. How much more complicated it is to address the displacement of the children who are now stranded—disoriented, stunned, confused—on our southern border, caught between powerful systems they had no hand in creating. And yet, address it we must, for not only are they children, they are children who have fled horrific circumstances. Like the Meadowlarks, they need first to be seen and to have their needs acknowledged. Then they need help and protection so that they can not only survive but also thrive.
I wish I had an easy answer for the problems the children face, but I do not. I wish that our elected officials were working together on addressing the complexities of the matter. Alas, they seem to be doing little but lobbing accusations at one another—while some people are even yelling at the children themselves. The woefully little good news I have heard coming from this story includes this: To counter the angry voices, there is now a website where ordinary people can leave messages for the children, messages of hope and compassion. If you feel so inclined, you too can participate in that effort at www.theyarechildren.com.
“Do your little bit of good where you can; it’s these little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Those words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu help counter the despair it would be easy to sink into in the face of the world’s great pain. Today, the little bits of good I feel called to do include posting a message for the children. And in the days to come, as I continue to watch and pray for the Meadowlarks, I will also watch and pray for the children.