By Gerald W. Deas, M.D.
Innercity stray birds and animals experience hazardous conditions during the winter months while they are trying to survive. Often, there is little water for them to drink, warm shelter is scarce and there is little food to be gotten from the barren trees and secured garbage receptacles. Birds and animals die by the thousands. This is not the scene usually found on Christmas cards showing happy birds and animals playing in the snow.
When I entered medical school years ago, my wife gave me a book written about Dr. Albert Schweitzer. He believed that every creature on the planet should enjoy their existence and have the right to survive. This ideal was embodied in his philosophy called “reverence for life.” He carried this magnificent ideal to Africa where he developed and ran a hospital for the indigenous African people. He felt that this caring and love for people was the basis for the survival of our planet and where else could this be started than in the seat of the beginnings of civilization.
We, as innercity dwellers, must also make a commitment, not only to our unfortunate brothers and sisters, but also to the little creatures who cannot beg for food or shelter.
In front of my house, which was in the innercity, I had a large fig tree under which I spread corn and seeds for the survival of our flying creatures. When I went out to feed them, you could hear them singing with great vitality and vigor. As I got under the tree to spread the manna, the birds became very silent as if they were praying and thanking God. As soon as I left from yunder the tree, they began to swoop down and enjoy the magic harvest spread before them. I also spread scrap food mixed with chow under the tree for stray dogs and cats that might happen by. When there were long dry-spells without snow or rain, I placed a tray of water under the tree for the animals to drink and for the birds to bathe in. These acts of caring are a great tranquilizer for the soul.
It has been shown that elderly people who care for a pet in their home live longer than those persons without a pet. Often, when I visit a seniors home and see them rocking in a chair with a pet on their lap, I know they are extending their lives by many years. This form of therapy is greater than any medicine I could give my patients. The practice of “reverence for life,” definitely gives life back to the giver.
During this unusual, cold winter when animals and birds are dying, I would suggest that you save your scraps of food and place them outside in a convenient area for stray animals. Also, buy a few pounds of birdseed and spread it out in front of your window or on your fire escape. From these acts of love and compassion for Mother Earth’s creatures, I guarantee when you go off to sleep, you won’t even hear a mouse!