The day after I wrote “Why are some people wildlife magnets?,” I sat on our back porch enjoying the sunshine when I noticed a light brown clump, about the size of a tennis ball, in our grass. I walked over to discover it was a sick, young sparrow that had fluffed up to stay warm.

Most birds in our yard have a good life. Predators are rare. Plus, we feed them twice a day on a regular schedule. While it’s not common to have a sick bird visit, we do see a handful of distressed birds each year that stay near the food and water we provide.

Slowly, I returned to my perch not wishing to disturb the little one.

I sent love to this fragile creature and asked God to look out for him. I thought about what Dahlahk Pahtahlngee had shared with me about animal totems. I recalled that he said it was our duty to listen to that animal’s need and assist it.

I’ve always had a special connection with birds. Some of my friends may even say I’m obsessed with them. And, anyone who’s read A Reluctant Spirit will know I had a special years-long relationship with a certain scrub jay that I named Gutter, who’d hang from the rain gutter upside down to get my attention.

I decided to heed Dahlahk’s advice. I sat silently and sent my offer to help the sparrow. Five minutes went by and I was uninspired. No message. Also, a chilly breeze came up, so I retreated into the house.

What occurred next was unusual for me. I decided to give the birds their dinner rations 90 minutes earlier than normal. This is something I don’t do as they tend to consume all of the evening seed in a mere 20 minutes. And, as our neighborhood winged friends are creatures of habit, I like to wait until closer to sunset when they tend to visit our yard.

I went back outside and as I neared the seed hopper, I looked at the lethargic little fellow, who appeared to be so sick, he didn’t know I was only several feet away from him. Feed him, I thought.

So I poured some seed in my palm and slowly crept toward the huddled mass of feathers. As I kneeled and put my hand near the ground, the bird whipped around toward me.

Oh, no, I’ve frightened him.

I paused and then, slowly, gently dropped some seed in front of me. The sparrow, now alert, hopped toward me with a startling vigor. He pecked at the food I left on the ground. As I crouched there, I spoke to him in a soothing tone. He looked up at me. So, I dropped more seed. He responded by coming to within six inches of me. Greedily, he consumed the seed, not bothered by his proximity to a human.

That’s when it occurred to me: He’d wanted me to feed him.

I’d gotten the message when I listened and sat in silence, even though I hadn’t realized it. Luckily, I’d heeded my instinct, helping one of God’s creatures as a result.