I have a breakfast companion these days. After my wife has gone off to work and my son has returned from the night shift and headed off to sleep, I eat something and sip my coffee in the quiet, looking out the window onto the backyard. That is where I encounter my breakfast companion with some regularity. She is a house finch who eats at the feeder that hangs from the deck. Her meal is solitary, kind of like me. Unlike many other finches, she does not gather with others, nudging and jostling each other for a moment at the perch. I noticed her the first time with surprise, because I was close to the window and she should have seen me and flown away. As I stood and observed, I noticed that this little finch was missing her right eye. That’s why she was undaunted by my presence.
That day, and now several other days after, we have eaten together, separated by the glass. Our solitary meal has become breakfast for two, at least in my mind. I imagine that the eye was lost to another bird. They do fight fiercely over food, even at my backyard feeders. Or maybe it is some disease of which I am clueless. Her solitude may be an inner scar made by the fear of losing the other eye. An instinct to avoid more hurt and damage, I assume. I get that. We all have scars that direct our habits and hearts.
Far from “crippled” by the scars however, my little one-eyed companion seems to relish the seeds I leave -just like other finches; she hops and dances… and sings, like they all do. The little one-eyed finch brings me joy. I give thanks for this little creature, a sign of God’s grace and resilience in a dark, cruel, and ever more terrifying world. I’d like to think that in some bird-like way, my little breakfast mate gives thanks for me a little too… well, at least for the feeder and food that allows a one-eyed, solitary finch to dine in the morning.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Most of us will engage in giving thanks for big turkeys, big tables, big food, big gatherings. We will give thanks for all our success and piles of possessions. Tomorrow is about “giving thanks” for the big stuff: food, family, jobs, prosperity, health… the list gets long. This year, however, my little finch friend has taught me to “thank small.” There was a time in my life I would never have noticed a one-eyed finch. There was time in my life feeding little finches seemed senseless, never crossed my mind. In a world that moves 11 million miles an hour, that fills my eyes and ears with fears and diatribes and problems and information from every direction, I am often overwhelmed by a world so big I can’t take it in. Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This is hard to do in a world where anger, fear, and division drive us and what we’re really thankful for is that we’re simply better off than others; that at least for today, we haven’t lost it all.
It occurs to me that to learn to “give thanks in all circumstances,” requires not one big holiday, but a habit of “thanking small.” I need to first notice more, pay attention to the small things – like one-eyed finches. I need to give thanks for what is right in front of my face and all around me – all the time. I need to give thanks for everything, no matter what it is, because God placed it here. I need to do it “in all circumstances,” not just one day a year. My breakfast friend also reminds me that I need to give thanks even when I lose an eye and live lonely. In the pain and suffering, I need to learn to give thanks. Then, and only then can I properly give thanks for the bounty on my table.
This year our meal and gathering on Thursday will be intentionally simple and small. Less fuss and more Sabbath rest are the order of the day. As Paul instructs, “Rejoice… pray… give thanks” will be the agenda. We’ll give thanks for the joys and the pain of life and try to concentrate on little things. Thank small. And with any luck, after we set the table and fill the feeders, my little one-eyed breakfast finch friend will join us and provide a little music.
© 2016 Timothy V. Olson. All rights reserved.