By Sister Nancy Surma, OSF
My apartment is on the first floor of a three-story building. Outside my living room there is a small patio just large enough for a lounge chair, side table and several potted plants. The patio is covered by the balcony deck of the apartment above me, and from that covering I hung a hummingbird feeder in the spring, without much luck in attracting the tiny birds. During the long, hot, humid days of summer, I took the feeder down since the heat quickly spoils the sugar-water mix.
A few weeks ago when the weather became more comfortable, I brewed up my mix of ¼ cup sugar to 1 cup of boiling water and let it cool. Within an hour of putting the feeder out, I saw a hummingbird coming by to dip its tiny, narrow beak into the red plastic flowers with their openings to allow the sweet syrup to be accessed. Because my feeder is always in the shade, it was difficult to distinguish if there were different birds coming to enjoy the nourishment. I knew what I was seeing were ruby-throated hummingbirds, since they are the only hummers east of the Great Plains. Sitting quietly by the glass door that opens to the patio, I could eventually pick out a male with his characteristic bright red throat, the plainer female and a noticeably smaller immature bird.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking out the door lately. The birds seem very active, not only feeding often but also chasing each other up and back to the trees on the little hill behind my building. They are entertaining, but more than that, they cause me to reflect. What a miracle they are—so tiny, yet strong enough to migrate to Mexico or Central America. How do they know what to eat, where to nest, how to raise their young? Somehow our Good God has created them with instincts beyond human understanding.
My pressing question now is: How will they know when it is time to leave northern Kentucky to make their long journey? That will be a sad time for me. But I will rejoice, knowing that I shared my patio with them and provided some nourishment to keep them alive. These tiny creatures allowed me to do as Pope Francis said in his recent message to Christians encouraging us to add “care for our common home” to the traditional corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I look forward to the time next spring when I can again share part of my home with them.