Birds, 18 Wheelers and Christians

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Birds of a feather flock together. Have you ever noticed certain birds of a feather—often small ones like sparrows or wrens—perched together on a telephone wire on a cold wintry day? There may be 40 or 50 of them huddled close together on the wire. There is obviously some kind of warmth generated, either by that wire, accounting for this gathering of the small birds so closely together, or is it the gathering itself, close to one another, that generates the warmth they are presumably seeking? On the other hand, often larger birds, like crows or blackbirds, who seem to be loners, and who often fly off on their own, each on its own favorite flight pattern, seem not to need one another to provide them the companionship or security of another bird of its kind, to help them keep warm, or simply to enjoy themselves as “loners”, following their own flight patterns, without companionship from another bird.

There is another instance illustrating the gathering together of similar kinds of items, but in this instance, it is a notably different kind of assembling together, from that just described concerning “birds of a feather flocking together”, at least of small birds. This is a mechanized assemblage of 18 wheelers, huge grain carrying trucks, that make their way off endless acres of cornfields throughout the state of Iowa, toward the small town of Clinton Iowa. Just as the assemblage of birds occurs in the winter, this convergence of mammoth trucks takes place in the fall of each year, as the corn is being harvested from the endless acres of corn, for which this state if so well known. For, in Clinton, there is a huge corn-processing plant that, in the fall of the year, attracts an almost endless parade of these massive trucks, each crammed with its load of newly harvested corn. lined up one behind the other, bumper to bumper, moving slowly toward their destination point in the processing plant, where they will discharge their load of corn into bins that will convey them into the innards of the plant where they will be processed either for conversion into food products, or for the first stages of a conversion program that will become ethanol, to fill the tanks of millions of automobiles and other vehicles. These trucks seem to operate on a time-table aptly described as 24/7, throughout the fall of the year. Who would have thought there are so many 18 wheelers exclusively engaged in conveying corn from farm to plant?

There seems to be little similarity between flocks of tiny wrens and sparrows, and these huge corn-haulers, except for one obvious fact. They both benefit and profit by assembling together in large numbers. The birds seem to do so for the bodily warmth they provide one another, huddled together on the electrical wires, and the trucks do so because it is only their convergence in large numbers at one particular spot that they make feasible the investment needed to erect such an enormous processing plant dependent on corn. In other words, benefits accrue, in each instance, from gathering together a sufficient amount of assets or benefits that reward the initial efforts at assembling together what is needed to provide warmth or corn products. This is about all that such mammoth trucks and tiny birds have in common.

And, as much as we differ from birds or trucks, we operate by the same principle. Benefits accrue to us all from collaborating together. Of course, this is not a break-through idea that first catches our attention from watching birds, or observing 18 wheelers. Our Christian tradition has made working together and helping one another a mainline teaching in leading our lives. But what is of significance in using such disparate examples is how this principle cuts across such different elements of life, to the point of observing that, even it was not imparted to us as a mainline teaching in our religious faith, it is something we would likely already be doing, in our efforts to lead a good and wholesome life.

This does not mean that the teachings of our faith are unnecessary, because we would already be doing much the same things if left to our own devices, but rather it shows the compatibility and consonance of our Christian faith with our own common-sense recognition of what we ought to be doing on our own: collaborating and working together in such a way that everyone benefits by doing so.

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Author: CPP

We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.

1 thought on “Birds, 18 Wheelers and Christians”

  1. Very nice reflection Father. It’s too bad so many Christians are missing this key point of working together on their Pilgrimage eh! Thank you!

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