Where I live there's a deep window well at one corner of the house. From the inside you can look out into the window well through a large living room window and see flowering shrubs and begonias with a reddish-brick backdrop on the outer sides. From the outside, the drop into the window well is about five feet.
Recently I started becoming aware of a robin flying around the interior of the window well, which persisted for much of a weekend afternoon. Occasionally I'll see a bird down there on a shrub or on the dirt floor, but that's more infrequent. This day, however, one or two robins kept up a presence. I even noticed one with a worm hanging out of its mouth. Finally it dawned on me that they were trying to bolster a young bird that was down in the window well and couldn't get out.
Through the picture window I could clearly see the stranded little bird. In my best Franciscan conjurings, I talked to the bird and said that I was on my way. I stopped in the garage, found a basket-style vinyl yard rake and carried that out to the window well. As I stood on the grass above, I could see the tiny bird down below, so I lowered the rake, hoping that the birdie would hop on. I channeled St. Francis and implored him to help. No luck. The rake gently touched the bird that immediately scuttled to the far side of the window well and hunkered down. The noise of offended birds was deafening as they weren't far away and watching protectively.
Then I phoned a neighbor, explained the situation, and she said she'd be right there with her husband. Sure enough they came quickly, assessed the situation, and decided that he would get a stepladder and gloves. He returned momentarily, put down the stepladder, crawled down into the window well, and approached the birdie. After a few flutters and attempts to get away, the husband enveloped the tiny creature with his gloved hands, carried him up the ladder, and let him go on the grass. Immediately five robins started flying around close-by. We left quickly so that the birds could tend to their own.
Thank goodness for the solid action of the neighbors to save the bird. Leaving it up to my Franciscan ways surely didn't work.
[Sister Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio.]