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On choosing life as a radical act of defiance

“If you have come to help, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lila Watson

The moment my feet hit the trail, I offer up the same prayer, “Let me feel a part of the web of life. Let me feel and know this connection.” Every day, I am greeted with some surprise: a fawn, a baby coyote, a snake, an intricate bird’s nest. Every day I am offered a chance to forge that connection I seek. It’s not just a matter of noticing the gopher snake slithering off the path. It’s also acknowledging that we shared that same space for a moment, that my footsteps (or the dog’s) prompted a reaction in it, that we each depend on this beautiful planet for survival and that because of my relative power of destruction, the snake depends on me to choose wisely.

These visits into nature center and ground me as I head back to my desk to face the consequences of our destructive society. Yesterday, I was greeted both by a case of a young man who went the way of too many and entered a gang, shot up a party, and now will never see the light out day outside the prison yard, and the shooting in Portland. Both situations involve a senseless waste of life. Both invoke a feeling of utter powerlessness in me to do anything to resolve the situation. Neither received as much public outcry, grief, or rage as I had expected. We are a tired nation, tired of seeing our youth either shot down or wielding a gun, tired of feeling that our voices never even penetrate the doors to the political buildings in Washington, D.C. We are tired of our fear, and tired of our grief and moral outrage. We’ve lain down and we just take it.

As all of this horrible brew started to bubble up in my belly and spill over into tears and fist-pounding, I told myself that to feel better, I must choose life. I must do something life-affirming. I must take #notonemore and make it mean something in my life. But how, right? Isn’t that the question we are all asking ourselves? How do we stop this?

Well, I don’t have an answer for that. Not yet, anyway. But at the moment I asked, I saw a post asking if anyone could transport a baby hummingbird from where I live to a neighboring town for rescue rehabilitation. I hesitated. I had a lot of work to do. And then I decided to accept the offering from the divine to make a difference and I texted the rehab woman and coordinated.

I then got to share some time and space with this little guy for 30 minutes:


He peeped at me regularly. I peeped back. It seemed a simple thing to do. It seemed to reassure him. Or me. Or maybe the two of us. Maybe we both needed to know the other was there, just for the duration of the ride. He’s gone on to his new home and I’m told he’s doing very well, which warms me.

On the ride back, I was listening to THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER and heard the following line, “There’s more to life than just yourself, your own family, or your own kind.” In the wake of hearing that, I knew it. I was connected to the web of life. I wasn’t a simple observer, noting the deer on the path and then undergoing the intellectual gymnastics about what it all means. I was simply there, using my power in a way that helped save a baby bird (plus, I got to say, “I’m the transporter,” with an air of authority and I kind of liked it).

Sure, it’s just a baby hummingbird. It’s not a kid. It’s not a gun out of a kid’s hand. But, I wonder how many opportunities we miss to choose life, to choose to belong to this intricate, beautiful web of which we are undoubtedly a huge part, because we are so trapped in our heads. Solutions need to look a particular way and if they don’t, well, what’s the point of even trying, right?

One of the great scientists was supposedly asked by his dad at the end of every day, “Did you ask yourself any great questions today?” It didn’t matter if he’d failed, just if he’d asked good questions. Maybe this is our problem. Maybe we are asking the wrong questions. Maybe we’re making them bigger than they need to be for right now. Every building has a foundation. Where do we start? What is the first step we take to get where we need to go? How do we forge connections in such a disconnected world? What opportunities are we overlooking because they just aren’t big enough? And what blessings we might reap if we seized those opportunities?

It may not seem like much, but each morning, I am going to ask myself, “What can I do to choose life today?” Today’s opportunity has yet to present itself, but I’m on the hunt. Maybe I’ll rescue a spider or maybe I’ll help my neighbors buy their groceries since I know they need the assistance. Whatever it is, it’s a tendril, a little shoot of stretching my hand out to connect with the web around me, to engage with all of this life brimming up as a way to hold back this tide of violence and anguish.

I would love to hear your ideas, too. How will you choose life? Or what great questions have you asked yourself about how to make build a foundation and make a step forward?


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