We see this well-dressed old woman visiting the park with a couple of small sacks of peanuts, oats and other grains to feed the birds. A common sight we thought, although it was difficult to miss the affection with which she was “interacting” with the birds, as if almost talking to them. One day we saw her nursing a bird by the lake (she reached out to the local animal welfare group as she told us later) and another day surrounded by a group of crows & ducks (by the lake). It is not that we visit this place often, but almost every time we did, we found this person actively engaged with her winged friends or walking around cheerfully calling out to them. One of the days we came face to face with her and as she greeted us with a cheerful smile, we took the chance to have a casual conversation.
(let’s call her Anne for the purpose of this post)
(Picture courtesy: www.paintingsbylizzie.com)
Anne has been visiting the park and providing food to the birds for several years now and told us stories about the different kinds of birds she “interacts” with, in the park. She spoke about the story of pair of swans living in that lake over the years and how she helped one of them when it got hurt. “It doesn’t cost much to bring some peanuts, oats and grains and what I get in return from these birds is their amazing friendship, I think you should try this too”, she encouraged us. “I think food is not the only reason why they come to me, it is like a community gathering and they feel safe”. Anne spends a few hours almost every day walking the park and looking out for her friends. Looking at the birds dance around Anne and just hang around idly (while not munching on the bits of grain), it felt like Anne has become not just a source of food for them but a purpose to flock to and spend good time. While I have watched some documentaries, courtesy Nat Geo, where determined volunteers/experts interact with wild life to make it easy for them to co-exist & share the environment leading to a healthy ecosystem overall, this was a first time direct experience of watching it happen.
One of the fantastic leaders I have worked with used to remark, “we should not be(have) in such a way that when someone from our team encounters us, they should not turn away and escape. We should be open and pleasant for our teams to come to us and engage”. Of course it does apply in general as well, we tend to go to (may be flock to) certain people or habits that give us a sense of good time, if not purpose. And there are other things that we tend to escape.
Without getting into the moral/logical predicaments, it is indeed wonderful to be(have) in a such way to be the reason/inspiration that invites flocking (may be not in the literal sense). To be the flock-destination that can enrich the ecosystem. One is lucky to be around such individuals who would leave one emotionally/intellectually richer with their (inter)actions (and if not around such people, it is a good idea to look harder and find some urgently!).
Of course, it is not just about people alone, there are habits/practices(sports/hobbies?) that do this too and to quote Seth Godin (“Okay, you know how you feel, what you need, what you want… This next thing you’re going to do or say: Does it help you get closer to that?”), it is important to note if the thing one is flocking to is actually enriching or depleting.
Most times, it will do a world of good if one is not being the flock-destination to harm the ecosystem [e.g., inviting group (to have caustic) conversations about how bad everything around is without doing anything about it!]
And once again, “What are peanuts worth?”. Well, Anne would say “tons of friendship!”.