A bird came to eat from the feeder. An ugly sort of pretty bird, it was too large to eat where the tiny finches did. Still, it seemed content to eat from the trough where the finches’ wasted feed was scattered.
I stared at it. It was actually striking. A beautiful beak, its long tail (longer than most I’ve ever seen) was a colorful autumn red. And when it opened its mouth, the prettiest call I’ve ever heard came forth.
It was its feathered coat which made it ugly. It was tattered and unkempt.
I caught myself attributing human thoughts to this feathered mess . . . “doesn’t it care what it looks like?,” “doesn’t it know it could be pretty if it just tried a little harder?,” “didn’t its mother teach it to care for itself?”
Perhaps, I thought, it had been caught in a storm. Perhaps it was just in a battle for its life against a larger bird. Perhaps it was starved and thirsty.
Perhaps that’s why it is ugly, I ventured.
Then, out of the blue, I started to cry; honest to goodness, I cried for an ugly bird.
We stumbled across people just like that bird every day. We look away in disgust, or we stare and shake our heads, but mostly we ignore them.
We ignore the ugly people because, like the finches, we take so much for granted. We trust that we’ll always have food provided for us with very little effort on our own. Though we may not be beautiful, we trust we are pretty enough to be pleasant. We’re confident our clothes, bought at a store, laundered in a machine, are presentable.
Like the striking yellow and black finch, we fly through a life of relative ease and contentment. We are attracted to fellow finches and repulsed by those who look different.
A couple of “ugly people” were at a recent ball game, and the “finches” around acted true to their call. They pointed; they laughed; they shook their heads; they looked away.
Then, they ignored them.
They were unkempt, but they were not blind. They were dirty, but they were not deaf. They have feelings and dreams and desires.
Yes, they were “ugly” in the sense of how “finches” describe beauty, but given a chance, I trust there’s a beautiful bird underneath.
Given a chance, they could soar as high as the finches.