The Old Man and His Birds

Once there was an old man, who always fed the birds all winter; he would put out suet cakes and all sorts of seeds for them, with lots of little bird-feeders all around his garden and his backyard. It was Christmastime, and so the old man was out every day, checking the feeders, filling the feeders, and watching the little winged creatures flit around his house as he sat on the porch. But one day, the birds began to notice that the old man didn’t seem to have any other companions!

“It’s a crying shame, isn’t it?” said one little chickadee. “I don’t think I can bear the thought of it. There must be something we can do!”

“If only,” said a starling. “He is such a kind man.”

The chickadee fluttered over to the window and peeped in. It was especially cold today, and the old man was at the hearth, warming his toes. There was one stocking nailed to the mantle, and only one!

“It’d be a travesty if he spent Christmas alone,” said the chickadee.

A bluebird overheard her from nearby. The bluebird was a strange sight this time of year, and apparently very confused; evidently she thought that she ought not to migrate, even though bluebirds almost always go south for the winter. She would always say that she was very content with her bird-house here in the old man’s backyard, but nobody ever seemed to buy the excuse! They all thought she was a mite bird-brained.

She fluttered over to where the chickadee was standing, and saw what she was talking about.

“Oh, yes, poor man.” she thought for a second. “I think I know just the thing!”

“You do?” asked the chickadee.

“I do think I do!” said the bluebird. “I’ll be right back.”

So the bluebird flew away, and was gone all night, until the very next morning! She had a piece of paper in her beak.

“Where were you?” asked the starling.

“I’m so sorry,” said the bluebird, after putting down the piece of paper. “I found a bit of bread on a sidewalk. It caused me quite a delay.”

The chickadee wondered how a bit of bread was supposed to cause a delay, unless of course the bluebird had stopped to eat it and something had taken it away. Then the bluebird had probably given chase after her bread!

“So what did you get?” asked the chickadee eagerly.

The bluebird pecked at the bit of paper at her feet. “This!”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a brochure,” said the bluebird. “There’s a church having a Christmas party soon down the street. It’d be good for him to go to church. I wonder if he does?”

“I don’t think he does,” said the chickadee. “He never leaves this house!”

“What a shame!” said the starling.

“Well, I’m just going to put it in his mailbox,” said the bluebird. “I think he’ll see it that way!”

So the little bluebird – with the help of the chickadee and the starling – managed to pry the mailbox open, and they stuffed the little brochure inside and made sure to put the flag down (so that the mailman knew not to take the brochure).

The next morning the old man came out and found – along with the rest of his mail – a small, folded-up piece of paper, talking about a Christmas party at the church, where everyone was welcome.

“Bah! Humbug!” he said, and went inside.

The bluebird didn’t know what ‘humbug’ meant. “Do you think that means he’s going?”

“No,” said the chickadee. “I think he’s actually very unhappy with the letter! Did you see his frown?”

“There must be something else we can do,” said the starling.

“I saw another thing at the church that looked neat,” said the bluebird. “Maybe this will get him to go to the Christmas party!”

So the bluebird went overnight again, and returned in the morning holding another, smaller slip of paper, folded in half.

“What’s that?” asked the starling.

“It’s a beeble tract,” said the bluebird.

“No, I think it’s ‘Bible’,” said the chickadee.

The bluebird decided to try saying it proper. It was the most important book of all, after all! Better give it due respect. “Be- beeble? Bibble. Bi-b-baible. Um.”

“Better,” said the chickadee, trying not to laugh.

“Alright,” said the bluebird. “Anyway. Maybe this will help him see the light of Christmas!”

She stuck the little tract under his door, but if he noticed it when he walked out to feed the birds, he never looked at it!

“Isn’t there anything else?” said the chickadee.

“I think there’s one more thing,” said the bluebird. “But we’ll need money for it.”

“We’re birds,” said the starling. “We don’t use money!”

“I don’t like stealing,” said the bluebird sadly.

“Well, we’ll have to ask all our friends if they’ve collected some coins,” said the chickaee. “The ravens are always collecting shiny things.”

“What would we give them in return?” said the bluebird. “I don’t see them giving up their coins anytime soon! Do you remember what happened to robin last time she wanted one?”

Evidently, none of them wanted to remember, because they all had grimaces on their little beaks.

“Maybe we can ask some friendlier birdies if they would help us find some,” said the chickaee. “The humans are always dropping nickles and quarters and pennies this time of year!”

“We’ll get a whole army together!” said the starling.

“Sounds great,” tweeted the bluebird. “I’ll ask around for help.”

“Me too!” said the starling.

“Me three!” said the chickadee.

So the three friends all went around the old man’s backyard, asking the other birds if they would help their fundraiser. When word got around, there were twenty or thirty birds in total, all sweeping the sidewalks and drainage ditches for lost bits of metal. All told they found about 50 quarters, 25 nickels, 12 dimes, and 10 pennies.

“Great!” said the bluebird, when it was all assembled in a pile. “I think it might be enough. But how to get it to a bookstore?”

So they piled it up in a little bit of cloth, and two big crows helped the bluebird to carry the makeshift sack to the bookstore, where the baffled store-owner gave them a little pocket Bible for their troubles.

When the old man’s back was turned, they slipped inside one of his windows and set it out on his coffee table. He hadn’t known that there was a pocket Bible on his coffee table, and – wonderingly – sat down to read a little bit. The old man remembered reading a Bible when he was young, but he hadn’t kept up the habit, and had forgotten a lot of the stories. He was very touched by the little book, and remembered the Christmas party at the church. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to drop in, even for a few minutes!

So the three birdy friends and all their helpers were very happy to see him walk out on Christmas eve, dressed up in his Sunday best, and go to the little church.

No, he didn’t get anything in his stocking, and he didn’t get anything under his tree, but he did get something much more valuable than either: good company, good fun, and a little reminder of how much he was loved by the Lord, even if he had no idea who the little evangelists were that had planted the book on his table!

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