Adventures in Indiana

Last summer I worked in Indiana doing bird surveys for Oregon State University.  I made some great friends and had a lot of adventures along the way.  There’s nothing like laughing at jokes only birders would understand.  While in the field, I plowed through thorns, climbed steep hills, crossed peaceful raging rivers, saw cool birds and fought off ticks.  One day I was working on a naval base (Yes, there is a naval base in Indiana.  Their sole purpose is to make soft pillows for the bunks in destroyers.) with one of my teammates when we were surprised by a Navy security officer who was accompanied by a large dog.  Not many people have had a navy cop tell them “Put your hands in the air and step away from the clipboard”.  It was the first time I had ever been held up at gunpoint.   Everything worked out after we explained who we were and what we were doing.  Another cool experience was when I was doing a point count that was near a lake,  I heard the beautiful whistling of a Baltimore Oriole while the sun rose over the water.  I then proceeded to thrash around in thorns the rest of the day but at least I had a moment.  This year I’m back in Indiana and my goal is to catch a beaver with my bare hands.  That and I want to use the machetes we bought last year.  Yesterday I saw a turkey, a beaver and a coyote.  That’s known as a wildlife trifecta.  On another note, I’m already gaining more experience at being given a hard time.  Last summer my teammates constantly blamed things on me and made fun of the things that I liked (Harris Hawks).  Then I worked as a laborer for a while and my coworkers there also constantly gave me a hard time.  Now I’m back in Indiana and already have been the subject of much teasing.  The way I deal with all this is to go to my room and cry myself to sleep.  I mean, it’s not like I ever tease anyone or make up stories.  Oh, and I can’t stand people who have a dry sense of humor.  I’m very happy to be here and am glad that two of my friends from last year are here as well.  Well, I think I’ll go back to studying my birds and dreaming of a world filled with Harris Hawks.  This is a day late but May the 4th be with you!

Top Ten plot lines for the next Star Wars movie now that Disney is in control

  1. Yoda sings “It’s Not Easy Being Green” with Kermit the Frog
  2. Belle falls for another beast after a long starship ride with Chewbacca
  3. Aladdin is drawn into his thieving past after moving to the desert planet Tatooine and meeting up with Jabba the Hutt Jr.
  4. The 101 Dalmatians chew up a group of Ewoks
  5. Lady and The Tramp are attacked by an army of Siamese Cat Clones.
  6. New Jedi learn to endure torture by listening to It’s a Small World for 24 hours straight
  7. Yoda becomes insane after tutoring Dory (Finding Nemo), Animal (Muppets), Pumbaa (Lion King) and the Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland)
  8. Shere Khan returns once again to kill Mowgli but is shot by Hans Solo, who skins the tiger and sells it to Cruella De Vil
  9. Simba learns the shocking truth that Scar was his real father
  10. Cinderella, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Princess Leia star in a new reality series titled ‘Fairest of All’

Life is beautiful

Two weeks ago [April 2013], I had the opportunity to serve at the Luke 14 Banquet at Manley Baptist Church in Morristown, TN.  The banquet is an annual event based on the story found in Luke 14.

12 Then he [Jesus] turned to his host [Pharisee who was a religious leader]. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. 13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” – NLT

The event is really a huge party for the disabled with games, activities, music, food and a petting zoo.  This year’s theme was A Night with The King and all the staff and volunteers did their best to make each person feel like a king or queen.  I volunteered to be a buddy, which meant I was paired with a guest for the night.  Just being around people who act or look strange because of their disability can make you uncomfortable.  Spending around four hours with someone who is very different from you is definitely a challenge!  While waiting for my buddy, my thoughts flashed back to the two previous times I had helped out at the banquet.  Last year, I made an appearance as a mascot named Health E. Hound.  That was pretty fun!  I got to give high fives and hugs to disabled kids.  In 2010, I had been a buddy to a man named Donald.  Donald could not talk, had poor eyesight and was mentally challenged.  That experience was uncomfortable at first but had turned into a blessing.

Back to the present, as I was waiting to meet my buddy, I was excited and surprisingly not very nervous.  God had given me peace and told me that I was going to have a great night.  Then it was time.  I met my buddy Rob and after a few minutes of talking, it was like we were already friends.  Rob was wearing a Michigan jersey because Michigan was playing in the Final Four that night.  As I am a huge basketball fan, we had an immediate connection.  We talked sports, played games, painted and ate popcorn.  Rob’s favorite thing to do was pet the baby kangaroo.  We visited the kangaroo at least five times in 2 hours!  Rob was really appreciative of my guidance and especially enjoyed it when I took several pictures of him with the kangaroo.  One of the neatest things about spending time with Rob was watching how he made other people smile.  Several times he made balloon animals for some of the staff members who were helping him out.  Seeing the surprise on their faces when they realized that Rob could transform a balloon into a teddy bear was really cool!  I had a great day and was grateful for the opportunity to become friends with Rob.

Just because some people cannot function on the same level as you or look different than you doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.  The way we treat those whom society views as irrelevant or lowly is of critical importance (Matthew 25:34-40).  No matter your age, gender, or ethnicity, your life matters. There is only one race – the human race – and every person is made in the image of God and is loved by Him.  This also makes me think of unborn children, whom many people view as less than human.  We strongly value many rights in the United States, but the most fundamental right, the right to life, is somehow left behind.  Life is beautiful, whether it takes its form as a mentally challenged adult, a teen with Down Syndrome, a child in the slums of India, or an unborn baby.  If we have been blessed with money or possessions, we should find ways to bless others who are in need. Those of us who enjoy a “greater” quality of life should never take all the blessings we have for granted. There are really so many things to appreciate and be thankful for.  Life is beautiful, because God made it.