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Right outside my window I have the most amazing birdbath. What makes this resting place so awesome is the many visitors that come to drink, and wash and play…at least I think they are playing in the water…

When a bird lands on the rim of the bath I will stop what I’m doing and watch… watch them peck at the water, jump in and wiggle, flex their wings and groom themselves. It’s a good thing the bath is not near my office window – goodness knows I’d get nothing done.

I wasn’t always a bird person – in fact the little creatures never crossed my mind until my dear friend gave me a magazine subscription for Christmas one year called Birds and Blooms… hmmm I thought this is different – I tend to read cooking magazines, news and foreign affairs – a magazine about birds… I’m not sure I’m going to like it – wow was I wrong – I love this magazine and I have learned a lot…in fact it is one of the magazines I look forward to reading because I know it is going to be interesting…

And it is… because I never gave it much thought about what they eat, how they eat, what they need to sustain in summer and winter. Now I am by no means a bird expert, but I do find great joy in their assembly.

Funny how things come to mind – when you’re mindlessly watching birds take a bath, like how a few different types can be at the bath together – wait their turn and not seem to mind the other birds waiting…and sometimes a few birds want the bath all to themselves. Most all birds don’t like the occasional dove that comes by for a drink, and blue birds don’t like anyone in their bath… but the cardinals, wrens, and finches don’t seem to mind each other.

All right, so my lesson today is simply this – do you let anyone come to your table? Do you welcome them or tolerate them? Do you treat them with kindness or let them fend for themselves, do you make a space for them or crowd them out…

Believe it or not bird watching reminds me a lot about how people treat each other.

I attended a committee meeting the other day. The blue jays were not happy to see others at “their” table. It wasn’t an issue of race or political affiliation but of ideas, perceived intelligence, and social standing.

It became very clear that not everyone was welcomed at that table…and since I struggle to pay attention anyway – and the meeting was boring I decided I’d watch the body language of each of the cast of characters – my version of watching my little birds at the bath and I’ll admit it became a source of joy and sadness for me to observe.

Since I wasn’t in charge I could only smile and nod at the other guests at the table – I offered water and coffee and a few jokes to help break the ice and would ask the guest their thoughts on the issue at hand in hopes to bring them into the fold…

Sometimes they spoke (in hushed tones) other times their tone for the conversation seemed to be edgy – probably because they instinctively knew how a few at the table viewed them …so my attempt to bring them to the table and make sure they were part of the team – didn’t work so well…like I had hoped

Sorry to say – I didn’t have much luck…for two reasons… from what I could tell…

1st – they allowed the posturing of the blue jays at the table mess with their head… and thus they “keep their head down…”

2nd – those who really didn’t want them there – would not make eye contact or help them carry the ball – so to speak – when they made a comment.

So, it was a 2-way street… not feeling welcome and not being welcomed by a few at the table…(the rest of us made up for it by adding them to committees and seeking their input).

Which in turn made those blue jays unhappy with us who were helping them they just didn’t like the addition of – let’s say the doves.

In America the pigeon is not the most loved bird – they make a mess, they walk funny, and they’re gray not beautiful color in their plumage except for the occasional shimmer of their feathers.

As in life the odd one stood on the side waiting to be invited – but no such offer came from leadership  – they just let them sit there and watch. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know when you’re not wanted…when you’ve been pushed to the side because you don’t look like the others.

And as with life IF that is how you treat people – shame on you – it’s hard enough out there without those few mean self-absorbed people who make life harder – just because they can… trust me – you’ll survive for a season… (maybe) but your day’s a coming and it won’t be good and you’ll feel what it is like to be on the outside.

Back to my birds – it seemed to me that others at the table were like my chickadees at the bath they sit on the rim and drink and then fly off to the feeder – and the come back and do it all over again… they’d hop into the conversation and then hop right back out… never being sure about they standing or safety… just like the ladies at the table – some wanted to join in but do to self-esteem or other issues they just couldn’t bring themselves to stay for the duration and let or make their voice be heard…

And still others were like my blue jays or crows – all or nothing… just like at the bath – no other bird are allowed to sit on the rim waiting for the them to finish – No they get the bath all to themselves… you know very similar to the person who always sits at the head of the table or speaks the loudest or acts like they are in charge– with or without a position of authority… they just seem to take it and everyone else moves away…if that’s your authority model remember one day that’s going to hurt if you don’t show some cooperation…and good will

I like the cardinals because they like to come to the bath with their mate and both can sit and watch and play and drink and then they don’t seem to care who else is at the bath… they get along with everyone…

And my favorite birds are the robins, chickadees and titmouse – they don’t care who is in the bath – they will all line up and wait their turn to wash, drink, and splash…. like so many good-hearted people I know who welcome everyone to the table regardless of race, color or creed…or perceived intelligence or social standing.

Like most of us – we can allow others to our table – it does not diminish my position of power or strength to have others around… but what I do expect is that if you’re going to take a seat at the table – be a part… join in… let your voice and ideas be heard – participate…because others want you there and want to hear what you have to say… and for those who think the space is just for them and those like them – remember what it was like when you started out – and how grateful you were that someone allowed you to the table and then encouraged you to bloom where you were…

Ok – so I know you didn’t tune in to hear wild bird America, but I just want to point out how nature and life are similar…and how we react is similar to what I see daily at my birdbath.

So, my message is 2-fold – get a birdbath for your yard – you’ll thank me…the joy of watching is a blessing and I really do mean that.

Think about how you treat others – people who are not like you, people who don’t have what you have, or believe the way you believe or care about the things you care about.

Recently I was on a 12-hour flight overseas and I got stuck to perhaps the most obnoxious seatmate in my 20 years of flying…I admit he was the worst – his self-important attitude reflected in everything he did… Everyone who came by our seat and accidently knocked into him – was stupid, the stewards were idiots, the food was awful, and I noticed as he sat there sleeping – his sleep was jerky, not calm, his mannerism were harsh and his face revealed someone who – in my opinion spent his time – trying to keep up and surpass everyone he knew (I was right as he ran to the customs counter a head of everyone) being first, being right, being selfish literally played out in his face, his actions and his attitude… during the course of the flight he spilt his drink and as I offered him my napkin he grunted – as he had been a real jerk to me at the beginning of our flight… I just smiled – my world is too big to worry about someone so mean… he could have learned a lesson at the bird bath – being the only one in the water is fine until you need someone to help…and then being alone – isn’t all that fun even if you are 1st to the customs counter – you still have to wait for your luggage.

Treating people – how you want to be treated is one of the golden rules – it makes sense, it is the right thing to do, and you’ll leave a lasting legacy when you do it right…and you’ll be a fading memory if you do it wrong…

The table is always big enough to hold all who come… so go ahead and make a space for someone you don’t know yet… they might be the one to help you when life knocks you down… you might be able to help them find their light and shine…

Edith Wharton – There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Mary Anne Radmacher – As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.

I’ll see you at the bird bath.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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