How to See Someone’s True Colors – Shine a Little Light
It was Mother’s Day morning. A cool, lazy day shaping up to be sunny later on, when a lesson landed on my lawn.
Our year-old puppy found it first. I let him out to do what he does, smiling to watch him. He’s a gangly teenager now, looking more like a half-grown wolf than the baby bear we named him for. He ambled out on long legs and huge paws, his shepherd ears moving forward and back like satellite dishes, taking in the morning sounds.
Mishka’s never in a hurry to do his business and come back in, so when he nosed curiously at a spot in the grass I thought it was just a delay tactic. He cocked his head to one side, glanced up at me, then wandered away still sniffing.
But he came back to that spot, still looking curious, and looking at me again and dancing a bit from side to side. I knew I’d better go see what he was excited about.
In the grass was a half-feathered baby bird.
My first thought was that it was dead. But sensing my presence it lifted its head, opened an impossibly large, bright yellow beak, and demanded to be fed.
The rest of the day was a scramble from computer (Google is your friend in times like these) to digging in the dirt. Baby birds need worms, about every 20 minutes. And they need to be kept warm. And they need water. And they need their mommy and daddy, but we followed the suggestions given by internet experts to try to entice the parents back to get their youngling, and that didn’t happen.
Who would believe that this little fellow will grow up to look like the bird above?
As the day went on it became obvious that he was going to live, and that helping him do so was out of our scope. Not only did we need to be available to him every 20 minutes, we needed to do that while keeping him away from two huge dogs and one small cat. (The cat being the greatest danger.)
So back to Google we went. “Wild Bird Sanctuary” yielded a resource about half an hour away. We called, would they take him (or her, because at this age gender is immaterial, but he looked like an Oscar to us) or at least tell us how two busy people who were already “parents” to three fur babies could keep one feathered baby alive and well?
They would take him. So we gave Oscar one more worm, nestled him in warmed towels, and took him for his first (and probably only) car ride.
An hour or so, and a happily-made donation to the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Mission later, we were bird-free and headed home. And I was thinking about Starlings.
Because that’s what they said our Oscar was, a common Starling. Well, they didn’t use the term “common.” And when I asked if they would put the time and resources into caring for something so common they quite adamantly told me of course they would.
But I remember my first slingshot. My father bought it for me, a high class aluminum one with a padded wrist brace and leather pouch. It was for shooting Starlings, because they were nuisances. According to Dad they were ugly, dirty, and served no purpose whatsoever.
I got to be a sharp-shooter with that slingshot, but I never hit a Starling, or any other bird.
How often it happens that we don’t value what is common, or ugly, or that does not please or serve us in some way.
But you’d never think the exotic-looking bird in the picture above was common or ugly, would you?
And yet, that’s a Starling. In bright light.
What beauty are you missing because you’ve never shone a light on it?
When I was a Management Consultant I often worked with doctors who were selling their practice, or bringing in an associate. Always, there was the concern that, while there were too many patients for one doctor to properly care for, there might not be enough patients to keep two doctors comfortably busy. (A scarcity mentality that often led to competition and hard feelings between the doctors, the staff, and even the patients.)
But the doctors who understood relationship principles found that what I’m now calling “The Starling Principle” could more than double a practice.
You see, a doctor who is too busy to see all of the patients will naturally (and usually unintentionally) focus on what we’ll call their “A List” patients. The staff will support this, or even initiate it by giving those patients choice appointment times, or being more diligent about communicating the patient’s needs and concerns to the doctor and other staff members. The busier the doctor becomes, the greater the discrepancy between how A-list patients are viewed and treated compared to B-list patients.
When a new doctor comes on board their schedule is usually filled with the B-list patients. But, since they’re new, and not so busy, and anxious to prove their worth and therefore get busier, they treat these B-list patients the way that the other doctor treats the A-list patients.
And the other doctor now has time and energy to treat the A-list patients even better. (This all works when insurance isn’t dictating the time and care doctors dedicate to their patients, but don’t get me started on that one!)
Guess what happens? Both the so-called A-list patients and the so-called B-list patients become better patients. They’re more likely to follow through with recommended treatment. They’re less likely to fail to show up for appointments. They’re more likely to refer their family and friends. And they’re more pleasant to everyone when they’re in the practice.
Everyone is happier. All because the “light” of time, attention, and energy was shone a little brighter on each individual.
The same is true of staff. And of clients. And of pets. And of children. The Starling Principle applies to anyone. When you shine the light of a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, a sincere compliment, or a helping hand, you’ll see their true colors.
(Oh, there are always exceptions, but it’s not because they’re common Starlings, it’s because they’re hurting, or angry, or afraid, or just not willing to accept your light. Have compassion for those who choose the darkness and know that your light wasn’t wasted just because their colors didn’t show up for you.)
How many “common” Starlings do you have in your world who might surprise you with exotic colors if you share your light with them?
Tell me the stories, that’s what the comment section is for!