Last spring a mother bird built a nest outside our window in the fragrant lilac bush. She warmed the tiny blue eggs day after day until one baby hatched ~ all belly and beak ~ with it's wide yellow beak yowling for food. The mother robin immediately spent her time looking for food, while the father robin stood on the nest's edge guarding the baby until she came back. Then she would sit on the well-fed baby until it became hungry again.
It was the father robin who ended up raising the baby bird, however. The mother's life was cut short, unbeknowst to the father and baby robin, when she flew into a window and fell lifeless to the ground only days after the baby hatched.
The father robin waited and waited on the edge of the nest for the mother robin to return. He chirped frequently, hoping she would answer his call. After quite some time we couldn't bear to see him wait any longer, so my husband carried the limp mother robin and placed her on the ground under the nest in the lilac bush hoping the father robin would see her. He did.
What happened next was remarkable. This father robin instantly understood that he was to become both mother and father, feeding, protecting and warming his baby.
He gingerly climbed into the nest over his new baby bird, like someone stepping into a mud puddle wearing their Sunday shoes, with no other way around it. He akwardly shifted and twisted ~ trying to figure out how to sit on the baby to keep it warm. After some adjusting he settled on the baby and "got it".Then when the baby became hungry, off he flew in search of food. He repeated the rigmarole over and over during the first day.
At the end of the first day he was exhausted. I didn't know birds could look exhausted but they can. His feathers were ruffled and his eyes were at half-mast; he could hardly keep his eyes open as he sat on the baby bird, hoping for a rest before it got hungry again.
This experience made me think of all single parents everywhere, including my own beloved widowed mother who raised the five of us little children on her own. I was so touched by the mother bird's sacrifice and instinct as she
How many single parents do we know who exhaust themselves playing the role of both parents? How often do we help share their responsibilies and pray for them? How often do we follow through with promises to keep our eye out for someone they can date?
I think of Doris and Odell Mangum, a humble elderly couple who used to help my single mother and ease her burdens when we were little. They would come to our home every Monday night for Family Home Evening to teach us a short, fun lesson about doing chores and other things that encouraged us children to be more helpful to our weary mother. Then we would always make popcorn balls. I loved Doris and Odell. Doris was from England and always wore violet perfume and Odell let us climb all over him and poke at his face while he smiled a somewhat toothless smile.
Remembering Doris and Odell reminds me that I wanted to be like them when I grew up. I also think of our teenage next-door-neighbor, Heidi, who used to come to our home on Sunday mornings to help my mother get all of us children ready for church. The words to the hymn "Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?" remind me more and more how to be like them.
I think of how much own my widowed mother, Shirley, sacrificed for my siblings and me. She is the most wonderful woman I know. She truly deserves the title "Great Woman". I think nearly any child could say the same thing of their single parent who is doing their best. A tender story from this article by David S. Baxter gives a small glimpse into the life of one single parent:
"In the general Relief Society meeting of September 2006, President Gordon B. Hinckley related an experience shared by a divorced single mother of seven children then ranging in ages from 7 to 16. She had gone across the street to deliver something to a neighbor. She said:
“As I turned around to walk back home, I could see my house lighted up. I could hear echoes of my children as I had walked out of the door a few minutes earlier. They were saying: ‘Mom, what are we going to have for dinner?’ ‘Can you take me to the library?’ ‘I have to get some poster paper tonight.’ Tired and weary, I looked at that house and saw the light on in each of the rooms. I thought of all of those children who were home waiting for me to come and meet their needs. My burdens felt heavier than I could bear.
“I remember looking through tears toward the sky, and I said, ‘Dear Father, I just can’t do it tonight. I’m too tired. I can’t face it. I can’t go home and take care of all those children alone. Could I just come to You and stay with You for just one night? …’
“I didn’t really hear the words of reply, but I heard them in my mind. The answer was: ‘No, little one, you can’t come to me now. … But I can come to you.’
"Single parents, I testify that as you do your very best in the most difficult of human challenges, heaven will smile upon you. Truly you are not alone. Let the redemptive, loving power of Jesus Christ brighten your life now and fill you with the hope of eternal promise. Take courage. Have faith and hope. Consider the present with fortitude and look to the future with confidence."
May all single parents have eyes to see, and hearts to perceive each small moment when, as the Lord replied to the woman in the story, "I can come to you". May all those who can give assistance to single parents see opportunities where they can be the "Lord's hands" and help out.