Today at 8:25 am, I was driving west on Martin Luther King Boulevard. I had just dropped off popsicles at the elementary studio for our celebration of reading together “A Wrinkle in Time.” Traffic was the typical morning push toward downtown Austin.
I noticed something small and red lying in the road a few cars ahead of me. I also noticed a man had pulled over, gotten out of his truck and was looking at it, hands on his hips as cars zoomed by. I assumed something had fallen off of his truck.
I hit the brakes as the car immediately in front of me hit the object.
It fluttered and flapped, the red color spinning around. It happened too fast for me to stop but I was able to straddle it without hitting it – again.
As I drove over the object, I saw that it was the body of a cardinal, the bird that always catches my eye and is the one that represents God’s presence to me.
I looked in my rearview mirror. The man now walked into the road, stopping traffic. He gently cradled the broken bird in his palms and walked calmly back to the side of the road. I saw him place the bird softly in some grass under a bush.
The gentle care of a wild bird on a busy road reminded me that there is tenderness – even love – all around us. There is also indifference and carelessness.
As I drove on, I immediately thought of the Acton Eagles I had just left behind. Their instincts would have been to save the bird. They live with their hearts wide open and their capacity for tenderness runs deep.
At Acton Academy, our job is to nurture, not hinder, the natural instincts of the children. They are born ready to learn, ready to be a friend, ready to get up after falling down, ready to work hard and to solve problems. On our weak days, we step in and take over, solving problems for them and feeding them information they could find on their own. On our good days, we step back in trust.
We know the world will feed fear, insecurity, and hard-heartedness into them soon enough, too soon. And so we aim to keep our space sacred, set apart, with one vision: if we continue to call up the inner hero of these young people, the world won’t succeed in dimming their lights. They will be the people who stop their day, stand by the road and wait to help a broken soul.