The hummingbirds should be back any day now. This was my thought a few days ago and a quick search online confirmed it: the first ones had been spotted in Chicago a week or so earlier. So a couple days later I brought out our two feeders, washed them, and added the sugary water they can’t resist. This morning, sitting on the porch while feeding the nine-month-old, I spotted the first one. It’s one of my favorite moments of the year.
This small sequence of barely noticeable events got me thinking about staying. We’ve lived in our Chicago home for six years and for the first few I never saw a hummingbird. We put up a feeder on a whim, not expecting much. But the birds came and now we have two feeders in addition to some recently planted honeysuckle that they seem to love even more than the sugar water. I’m not sure how many of my neighbors notices these little birds – it helps to be up early – but I delight in each sighting, even the brief, darting ones seen in my peripheral vision.
The only reason I know to look forward to the hummingbirds’ return each spring is because we’ve stayed in this particular place for a few years. It’s the only reason I knew that buying a second honeysuckle plant this spring would likely attract even more of these favorite visitors later in the summer. One of the wonderful things about staying put is learning what delights there are to anticipate each year. There are thing residents know to expect hopefully that tourists and transients will simply never access.
What if one spring the hummingbirds didn’t return? Not too many years ago I wouldn’t have noticed. Despite the catastrophe under my nose, I’d proceed with my business, ignorant of this very wrong thing. Could this be an argument against staying? After all, the person with one eye always on the horizon, keeping all the options open, is blind to the wrong that doesn’t make the headlines and so is protected from experiencing it.
But ignorance provides only temporary relief. Humans, I’m convinced, were created in the image of a God who cares for his creation and creatures. We need not simply to be useful in a general sense but, in the image of this creative and responsive God, to know our particular place well enough to delight in its beauties and respond to its needs, especially the ones others will never see. Not staying, adopting the transient habits needed to pursue the American dream, may provide protection from the pain inherent to every particular place. But this can’t be a serious argument against staying for such protection must also keeps out delight and the particular opportunities to care for God’s creation and creatures.
There are many good reasons to leave and typically when the opportunity arises these come quickly to mind. But I wonder if it makes better human sense to assume that we’ll stay- for the good of our own humanity, for the love of our neighbors, and for the many opportunities to delight in the barely visible beauty we’ll otherwise miss.