• Kate Clinton

Don't Judge a Bird by its Feathers

Our church seems to be a perfect place for a Gull hang out, even though we are hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean. I say Gull because I am now educated on the varieties of Gulls that inhabit this world. I wasn't aware that there were so many different kinds until I read some articles to research why I can't go to church without one of those birds pooping on my car. I naively thought what I was seeing was a Sea Gull. You know, the ones that steal your crackers at the beach and disrupt the tranquility of the ocean?

Before I was educated on Gulls, I thought those birds were pretty dumb. I pictured them flying high above the parking lot, yelling to each other. “Hey Tom, look at that pretty ocean! Let's stop and check it out!” Only to have them land and peck at the asphalt like brainless birds. They strut around like confused tourists. Their feathers fill the church every time the doors are opened. They scare little kids trying to play on the play ground who think their lives are on the line because all those birds might carry them away. I kept thinking, can they really be this dumb to think they are at the ocean? When my kids would ask me why they were in the wrong habitat, I would tell them the birds must be pretty confused and not too bright. Don't they notice there are french fry crumbs instead of crabs? Asphalt instead of water? People dressed in church clothes instead of swimsuits?

Boy, did I feel silly when I read more about these birds. It turns out they aren't Sea Gulls, but Ring-Billed Gulls. There are 50 different species world wide. A New York Times article relayed the info by Jessie Barry of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Those Ring-Billed Gulls are actually pretty smart birds. They purposely hang out at large buildings with large parking lots. They love suburban areas and are “opportunistic omnivores” who take advantage of the free food left in the parking lots. The large roof offers them safety. The massive open areas in the parking lots give them time to spot predators and return to the roof. Huh. Guess they weren't the dumb ones.

I set out to prove Sea Gulls weren't very intelligent. It turns out I judged a bird by its feathers. At first glance, they appeared to be Sea Gulls confused by their surroundings. Close inspection proved the birds to be Ring-Billed Gulls that had picked the perfect location for a continuous food supply and safety.

Don't we do that to people? Judge them from a distance? Without knowing much about their circumstances? Judging others without knowing much about them is a common thing for most of us. I guess it's human nature. I know I do it more often than I should. But God has called us to do otherwise. He is the Judge. We are called to love others. Galatians 6:2-5 reminds us to  2"Help each other with your troubles. When you do this, you are obeying the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to do this, you are only fooling yourself. 4 Don't compare yourself with others. Just look at your own work to see if you have done anything to be proud of. 5 You must each accept the responsibilities that are yours.” 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us, “But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”

Sea Gulls resemble Ring-Billed Gulls, but they are difference inside. Designed by God to do different things. We humans resemble each other. But God has designed us to do different things. God examines the heart. We tend to examine the outside. Maybe it's because we don't know enough about the inside. Don't judge a bird by its feathers. Get to know the bird. What they do will make more sense when you understand the why. Let God take care of the judging. He knows a lot more about the inside of that person than we do. We can do what He called us to do. Love others.

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