The Fayette Citizen-Opinion Page

Friday, November 30, 2001
Learn who your friends and enemies are, and when to keep quiet


John Maxwell tells a story that, I believe, teaches a profound message. It seems that during a recent winter, while all the birds up north were preparing to migrate south, as the leaves were just beginning to change colors, one little bird resisted. "I don't know why, every winter, we have to make that long, arduous journey south. This is a good place here. There plenty of food, the weather is nice, and I'm tired of making that stupid trip with all the other birds. I'm staying here."

The other birds of his flock all tried vainly to persuade their little friend to join them on their annual journey. "Why?" said the little bird.

"Because that's the way it's done," replied the leader of the flock. "We've always flown south in the winter. It's what birds of our kind do."

"But," argued the little bird, "has anyone ever stayed here in the winter? Does anyone know why we always leave?"

The leader of the flock confessed that he didn't know of anyone who had ever stayed and neither did he know why the flock left. They just always had. They always would.

"Not good enough," said the little bird. He had never liked it in the South during the winter. It was too crowded, there were too few places to roost, and the search for food was too competitive. Besides, it was too hot. He would stay. Sadly, the friends of the little bird bid him farewell and began to take to the skies. The little bird flew with his friends for a short distance and then settled on a tree limb and began to wave good-bye. He stayed in the tree long after the last of the flock had faded from view.

Before too long, the little bird was quite alone as all the other birds of his species, from neighboring flocks, had taken flight. And, sure enough, it was wonderful! The weather was nice and, since he was alone, food was more than plentiful. In fact, the little bird ate so much that he even took on more weight than was normal for him. Life was good. It was very good.

Several days passed, then a couple of weeks. Other than being lonely occasionally, the little bird enjoyed himself and marveled at the change in the colors of the leaves. Why, it was more beautiful here than he could have imagined.

Then one morning, the little bird noticed a subtle change. The leaves began to drop off the trees and a chilly wind began to blow from the North. Food was getting more scarce and the nights were longer and colder. The little bird began to feel the chill deep in his bones and, after another day or two, realized that staying behind might not have been the best idea. So, with determination and chagrin, the little bird took flight and began the lonely journey to the warm south.

He hadn't been in the air very long before he noticed that, due to his extra weight, he was tiring quickly. And then, it began to snow. The little bird had never even seen snow before. In fact, the first blizzard of the season hit the northlands and the little bird's wings began to be heavy from the accumulated snow and ice.

The combination of snow, ice, cold, and weariness finally took its toll. The little bird slowly, in a long, pitiful spiral, dropped from the sky and landed gracelessly in a barnyard. As the little bird was slowly freezing to death, isolated and alone, he realized that he had made a terrible mistake. In his last sorrowful moments of life, he took notice of a cow that was walking toward him.

"Oh no," thought the bird. "At least I won't have to worry about freezing to death. This big cow is going to step on me and crush the life out of me!"

The cow walked closer and closer and passed right over the little bird without stepping on him. Then, suddenly, "PLOP." And the little bird was gone from view.

"This is the final indignity," thought the bird, now in a world of smelly darkness. "It wasn't enough that I'm going to freeze to death. This stupid cow had to drop its 'plop' on me. Oh, the shame of it allto die alone and isolated, covered in a cow's 'plop.'"

But then, a strange thing happened. Encased in the warm "plop," the little bird's wings began to thaw. The warmth began to return to his shivering body. Life began to flow again! The little bird thought, "It's a miracle! I'm not going to die!" He was so overjoyed that he began to sing like it was spring! In fact, he sang more joyfully and with greater volume than he ever had before!

Which, unfortunately, attracted the attention of the barnyard cat, who made his way over to the "plop" in the middle of the barnyard. Curious at the strange singing coming from within the "plop", the cat began to paw around in the stuff until, to his great surprise, he uncovered the singing bird. Startled at the sight of the hungry cat, the bird ceased his singing. Quickly, the cat snatched up the little bird and ate him.

Now, here's the moral of this story: Not everyone who "plops" on you is your enemy. Not everyone who rescues you from "plop" is your friend. However, if you do find yourself in a world of "plop," have the good sense to just keep your mouth shut.

[Father David Epps is rector of Christ the King Church in Peachtree City. He may be contacted at or at]


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