A couple years ago I wrote about Fred and Ethel, two robins that built their nest on a low-lying limb in the tree outside our front window. This year a couple of sparrows showed up, surveyed the scene and selected the bird house in our back yard for their home. We were happy to see them move in. The bird house, a mothers-day gift from our son, sat empty for three years. A few larger birds showed interest, but after poking, prodding and wiggling with unsuccessful efforts to wedge their way through the tiny opening, they abandoned it and went searching for real estate elsewhere.
The sparrows found it a perfect fit and joyfully chirped in celebration of their good fortune. I named them Ed and Trixie, the side-kick couple from the Jackie Gleason show, one of the most popular sit-coms in the early days of television. Ed was a plumber. His best buddy, Ralph, played by Jackie Gleason, was a bus driver. They lived next door to each other in low-income apartments. Sparrows seem to be blue-collar birds, so the names seemed to fit.
Ed, the male sparrow, has a dark bib (or is it a beard?), beneath his beak. Trixie, the female, has a gray breast. For days they inspected the birdhouse, perching on its ledge, flitting back and forth to a nearby limb, returning to peek in the small hole. Finally, they agreed it was suitable, and they started collecting blades of dry grass, straw and twigs. For several weeks they tirelessly delivered their nesting material and built their home. Like the robin, sparrows are monogamous, mating for life.
Last week, the faint sounds of chirping emerged from the birdhouse, and, watching closely, I thought I saw the movement of baby birds through the narrow opening, their tiny beaks reflecting the sunlight.
Later in the day, I sat by a pond and watched a mother duck slowly paddle her way along the shore, surrounded by eight ducklings. They poked and prodding in the shallows beneath a yellow-green Willow. The bright-colored mallard followed close behind, keeping a close watch on his brood.
We are surrounded by the mystery and miracle of life. It must give God great joy to behold His creation, encoding into the DNA of every living creature the desire to mate and multiply. No where is this more beautiful than in the human species.
I love watching young couples pushing their baby carriages, fathers balancing children on their shoulders, mothers watching from a shaded bench while their children laugh and squeal on the playground. This is the reason weddings are celebrated with such joy. They represent the hopes and dreams of the next generation.
The little brown sparrows seem so common, like most of us. Only two of the billions of birds that populate the planet, building their nests, laying their eggs, raising their young, living out the mystery and miracle of life. They remind me of the old hymn sung with such passion by Ethel Waters.
Why should I feel discouraged, Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.