Oct 2, 2009

Snowbirds and Starlings

We had our first “cold” days this past week in Minnesota; we had to bring some plants in doors to avoid any potential frost. The warm weather we had this past month is now gone and we are reminded that winter will soon be here. For some Minnesotans the changing of the season means a change in where they live. Many will make plans to migrate to warmer locations in the south such as Arizona, Texas, California, or Florida. The people who live in the southern states call these temporarily transplanted Minnesotans “snowbirds” because they will head south to live when it is cold and then return to Minnesota when it is warm again in the spring.

Snowbirds are typically people who are retired or those who have wealth and can afford to be away from home for long periods of time. Some of these people have second homes; others will drive their campers (RVs) to their new location. They temporarily head south like the swallows of Capistrano or some other beautiful song bird or the lovely monarch butterflies. For snowbirds, these are happy times filled with warm sand and sunshine. For us, we miss them until they return in the spring.

There are some snowbirds who head south not because they can afford to, but because they have to; it is just too cold here in Minnesota for them to sleep on the streets. These are the homeless people who for whatever reason have nowhere to live but on some piece of real estate that is not their own.

We don’t think of them as “snowbirds”, but rather as “starlings”; those pesky birds who seem to be nothing but pests. Starlings are loud scavengers who take the scraps left behind by road kill or steal from farmer’s fields; taking never giving or contributing to society. They are not pretty nor do they seem to serve any purpose; we don’t need them and we are “happy” when they head south for the winter. Always asking people for a hand out; why don’t they just go away? Why, because for some reason they don’t seem to be able to. And so they move from location to location searching for someone who will care for them. For us, we wish they would just go away and not return in the spring. Then we wouldn’t feel guilty as we justify why we don’t do anything to help their situation.

Now, my goal is not to put any of us on guilt trip; I certainly don’t need any. But I want to remind us as we check our furnaces and get out the warmer clothes and get ready for the cold that there are a whole bunch of people out there who will be spending the winter sleeping outside. And, they can’t afford to go away “somewhere else”. They are your problem and my problem; and we need to care.

You might be thinking; “Didn’t Jesus say the poor you will have with you always; we aren’t going to solve the problem of homelessness! Two thoughts: First of all, Jesus said that to refute Judas who was mad because of a woman who poured out perfume that was worth a year’s wages, on the feet of Jesus as a gift. Judas Iscariot said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. Jesus was saying that the poor you have with you always, but He they would not always have (John 12:1-8).

Secondly, in the Bible, Isaiah chapter 58 we hear God’s heart on this matter. The people were “fasting” for God and wondering why He wasn’t doing what they wanted. God said through the Prophet Isaiah; v6-7 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?” In verse 10 God goes on to say that we should “extend your soul to the hungry, And satisfy the afflicted soul”

I’m not sure what the answer is or what God is calling each of us to do when we see these “starlings” out on the street; trying to stay warm and get something to eat. I bring this up to keep it fresh in our faces; not for guilt, but because I believe that we need to say to God; “What are you asking me to do?” And then to go do it; and make a difference for the starlings of this world we live in.

“Starlings” by Randy Stonehill
Riding with my family in a '58 Buick
I can still recall
How we'd drive through the valley
To my Grandmother's house
Every summer vacation, when I was small
And I'd gaze out the window
At the farms and the orchards
And the sound of our motor
Would frighten the starlings
And they'd rise from the fields to fly

My mother would grumble
"Those birds are a curse
They're a thorn in the farmers" side
But I couldn't help feeling sad and inspired
By their desperate ballet in the sky

Say a prayer for the starlings
A hot, dry wind beats their ragged wings
Have a thought for the starlings
No one ever listens to the songs they sing
Say a prayer for the starlings
There's no welcome for them anywhere
Leave some crumbs for the starlings
They say that Winter will be cold this year

She was sitting on a curb by the Seven Eleven
She asked if I had some spare change
Her skin wore that leathered and wind-burned look
And the light in her blue eyes was wild and strange
I sat down beside her and asked her name
She said, "pick one you like, I need something to eat"
And her life made me think
Of the dead leaves in Autumn
Drifting like ghosts down the street

Is the life that we celebrate only a dream
A lie that we serve like a god made of stone
And our hearts are the hunter
Birds with no nesting place
Weary and aching for home


Written By Randy Stonehill
© 1989 Stonehillian Music/Word Music
(a division of Word, Inc.)/ASCAP

No comments:

Post a Comment