A Real Honor

What was your greatest honor? Have you earned awards and trophies? I vaguely remember being called to podiums and handed something for something I apparently did right. But I didn’t keep the awards and cannot now remember what they were for.

My painting is St. Francis and the Sparrow. Francis was born rich, but renounced his wealth to walk about preaching. The legend is that he preached to animals, and you often see St. Francis statues in gardens with a bird feeder attached. The legend probably comes from the time he was preaching on the street to a mocking crowd and concluded, “I may as well preach to animals.” Preachers can relate to this frustration. But what if God sent a sign of approval for his good work as he walked out of town?

Francis went on to great trials and ultimate success, though obviously not in the monetary sense that we often equate with success. Almost nine hundred years later, there are still Franciscan orders in the Catholic church, ministering to the poor and outcast.

My greatest honor was bestowed in private between me, a sparrow, and God. My daughter saw a purplish, naked baby sparrow on the sidewalk at Publix and said, “Oh a baby! We’ve got to save it.” It looked dead to me, so I took it home, wrapped it in a washcloth and put it in a shoe box, figuring I’d bury it in the morning. But about 2 A,M. she started squawking for food and she didn’t stop squawking for months.

She grew feathers and I made her a special room complete with tree branches and bird seed so she could practice flying and learn to feed herself. One morning I saw her gazing longingly out the window so I slid the window open and she flew out into the wild, a bittersweet moment. Two months later, while walking to a neighbor’s house, a sparrow flew to me, perched on my shoulder and turned her head this way and that, looking me in the eye. Then she was gone again. No audience, no plaque for the wall, but what an honor.

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