In early April here in Tampa, FL my wife and I saw a pair of cardinals returning often to the thryallis bush just outside our office window. What we expected came to be: they had “nested” about three feet off the ground and our first glimpse of the neatly woven basket—when mother was nowhere near—was of one egg. By the third day, there were three.
Life Lessons Observed
These feathered friends remind us of us fundamental lessons:
- loyalty (cardinals mate for life);
- persistence (despite a storm that brought strong winds and 3 inches of rain, the mother cardinal remained at her post);
- patience (she sat for 10 days with few breaks); and of course…
- nurture (when the eggs hatched, she spent nearly all daylight hours foraging for food to drop into gaping beaks).
What instinct commands in animals, humans learn from those who bring us up. If you were raised in a caring, loving, attentive household, you come to appreciate years later the gift of that nourishment.
I’m grateful to my parents for their love and attention… even if I was the sixth child! Despite the fact that potting training me was their sixth time as was wiping away kindergarten tears and looking over multiplication tables and giving driving lessons, their energy was as fresh as it was for the first child.
But I know people whose early life proved wanting in love and compassion. Thankfully they were somehow able to find role models in a surrogate “sister” or “brother” or “parent” when they got older or moved away from home.
Inspiration From Other “Parenting” Figures
In addition to the strength and support of a good home life, I, too, was able to experience another parenting figure in an elderly woman. When I left to enter a high school seminary far from home, I wanted to learn to play the piano.
Mrs. Kohl was a retired music lover who had decided to use her time and energy to develop the talent of new students like me.
I fondly remember how she would place a dime on the top of each of my hands so that I would learn to move only my fingers when practicing scales. Mrs. Kohl also taught me about the great masters of piano composition and played their music for me while enthusiastically describing the “movements” in the pieces.
Although she rarely touched me—perhaps if my posture was stooped or a foot was on the wrong pedal—Mrs. Kohl’s presence next to me was somehow metaphysical then and mystical now 40 years later. The nurturing of my young hands and heart with regard to music is something that continues to inspire me to this day.
Learning To Trust
During this COVID time, amidst the stress and strain of close quarters, monotony, financial worries, suspicious coughs and sudden deaths, we’ve somehow learned more about one another, even as we sometimes need to get out of the way. We developed new skills and rediscovered old hobbies. No touching allowed, instead we elbow bump or wave on Zoom like school kids looking through bus windows. We have adapted to love and provide empathy through emails, posts and texts.
Eight years after entering the seminary, when I graduated from college and I had the hutzpah to do so, I asked my mom (half-serious, half-jokingly), “How could you have let me go to a school 600 miles away when I was barely a teen?” Her answer: “Hey, it was one less mouth to feed!” We laughed and then she could tell I really needed to know the answer, so she said, “I trusted you. I knew that if it wasn’t right for you, you would have made the correct decision.”
Leaving The Nest
As I was finishing this piece, the cardinal chicks became fledglings and then we saw one of them literally “leave the nest” and fly to another part of the same bush. The mother stayed near and fed it for hours. And then both took off. The female cardinal’s work is probably done by now. She nurtured her chicks and nature gave us another example of how to do the same with this one, brilliant life and those we love or need to love more.
Born the sixth of seven children, Daniel Francis grew up a traveler- on three continents before his 6th birthday with a father in the Navy and a mother who loved globetrotting. In 2014, he began DMF Coaching which contracts support to individuals for one-on-one life coaching and offers speaking opportunities to groups. Daniel has been a motivational speaker for the past 24 years and has given presentations in over 250 cities in 12 countries and on 4 continents. He and his wife live in Tampa and enjoy gardening, exercise and (in non-pandemic times) trying out new local establishments. They are Cofounders of Alive ‘n Well and continue to turn every seemingly negative moment into a seed for positivity and love.
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