My dear friend, Ken Helser, has blessed my heart for almost as long as I can remember. I think I was 8 years old when we met. He’s a North Carolina native who grew up playing beach music, but when he was in his twenties, he met Jesus and left rock-n-roll to play in Jesus’ band instead.
But he’s not just a musician (though he does play trumpet and piano and write music.) He’s also an accomplished artist (see the picture above) and storyteller. I’ve always loved Ken’s stories and so several weeks ago when my Dad handed me two CD’s of Ken’s stories, it was an incredibly special gift. Twenty-one stories. Some that I’d heard hundreds of times. And some that are completely new to me. And the story about the bluebirds is new. Well, to me anyway. The following is a paraphrase of the original, longer version.
What do you know about bluebirds?
We think of birds as being simple, but really, they have more wisdom than many people do. At least when it comes to family.
Bluebirds are the most “family-oriented” of birds. They marry for life. They never separate. They never divorce. They’re the only bird that when the children leave the nest, they continue to correspond with them and take them food for weeks after they leave the nest. Any other type of bird just gets pushed out of the nest and is on its own. But with bluebirds, even when they migrate, they go as a family.
When the male bluebird falls in love, he sings love songs and that’s what attracts the female. But before he starts to sing the love song, he finds a place that will make a safe, secure, established, firm-foundation home. One that repels weather. One that sits in just enough shade, but just enough sun that each afternoon she can leave the nest and take a break. One that sits where black snakes can’t get in to rob the nest. One that has a protective door so that raccoons and possums can’t chew into it and rob the nest.
Before the female bluebird checks out his body, she checks out his wisdom. He can be handsome, but if he’s not going to make a home and be a father, she pays no attention and flies off. But if she checks out his wisdom and finds that he’s made a wise home, she says, ‘I do’ by flying into the box.
Bluebirds don’t just take care of their immediate families. They take care of their extended family, too. The bluebird keeper who built the bluebird box in the picture above—Jack Finch—told a story about once when they found a wounded bluebird in their yard. They took it inside and put it into a special cage on their porch and nursed it. One afternoon, Mr. Finch heard all sorts of racket on the porch and when he sneaked a peek, there were five or six other bluebirds flying all around the cage, trying to figure out how to get in to take care of their wounded loved one.
Mr. Finch spent years studying the bluebirds. He built more than 30,000 of the bluebird boxes and knew the birds so well that he could tell their songs apart. One day, he noticed a male bird singing the most mournful, sad song he’d ever heard from the bluebirds. Curious and concerned, Mr. Finch went and stood in the yard. The male bird flew very close to where he was and dropped a feather. As the feather fell to the ground, the bird flew back into the box and then came out with another feather, which fell to the ground. Mr. Finch went to the box and opened it. And when he did he saw that the mother had died and was smothering the babies. And the male bird was not strong enough to lift her out of the box. Mr. Finch removed the female and the male went in to take over where the Mama was no more. He didn’t abandon their family. The next day and the next day, four or five other birds came and helped the widowed male raise his family.
We think of birds as being simple creatures. We think of them as animals with no feelings or emotions. But I don’t think of them that way anymore. I want to be wise and loving like the bluebirds.