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  • I was on my way to a meeting this morning at a coffee shop, and as I walked through a grassy area, I saw a small bird that was lying in the grass. It was breathing, so I knew it wasn't dead. As I got closer, I saw its beak and eyes were open, as if it were panting.

    I couldn't leave it there, but I didn't know what to do. There was a music school next door, and they had a table outside with a cooler and cups of water laid out. Apparently they were running a summer camp, and all the campers were inside at the moment. I took one of the cups of water, brought it back to the bird, and began to pour some of the water onto the bird's beak, and then onto its back and across its feathers.

    This elicited some small response. It perked up a little, closed its beak. Then it went back to panting. My meeting was in a few minutes. I tried to call the local animal shelter, but there was no answer. I eventually asked one of the baristas inside for help, and she came out to see. She told me she had saved some birds before, and that it was probably just completely dehydrated. She took it in her hands and dripped some water onto its beak, and then passed it to me, going back inside for a cardboard box.

    I held it in my hands, kneeling in the grass and the heat. The way she had passed the bird into my palms, it faced me. I carefully turned it around, and tried to feed it more water. Suddenly it began to squawk/chirp wildly, flapping its wings. It fell out of my hands and began to do somersaults in the grass. I quickly tried to scoop it back up, calming it, carefully taking it back in my hands. My thought was this is bad, can birds have heatstroke?

    "Thank you for saving the bird!" Someone else was there. I looked up and the campers from the music school were outside, drinking from their cups of water. Three little girls were watching me kneeling in the grass, holding the bird. "Oh, thank you... I don't know if I'm helping though" I said.

    The barista came back out and we placed the bird in the box. I brought it inside and she cut a plastic cup to make a small dish, which I filled with sugar water. We placed this in the box with him and closed it. I told her I'd look after him so she wouldn't get in trouble with her boss. The bird was laying in the box, breathing heavily. My coworkers were empathetic, asking me what had happened. I wanted nothing more than to leave and get the bird a dish of water which I could put it in to cool it even more, but I also didn't want to appear silly - to concerned with what's ostensibly an inconsequential animal.

    During the meeting I was distracted. I thought about how hot it was, how abnormally hot it had been. Surely there have been other birds who were affected by heat exhaustion. I wondered about how things would be in the future, if temperature extremes continue to grow, and how many birds and other animals could find themselves unable to live as they always have.

    Halfway through our meeting, during a break I checked the box. The bird had moved from one side to a corner, and was no longer breathing. I excused myself, announcing the bird didn't make it. I placed it outside with the top open. The barista noticed me, and asked. I told her what happens. When our meeting resumed I saw her moving the bird in a paper towel. I'd meant to take care of it myself, but I didn't leave for another hour.

    I was talking with my friends about this, about how I believe that people are supposed to be stewards of the Earth, and what that means to me. I believe people have taken than to mean the world is ours to do with as we please. But a steward takes care of things that are not theirs. And I feel like people in general don't do well by each other, or by their world. Maybe there was nothing that could be done for the bird. But there is a difference between noticing then trying to help, and ignoring the world or letting things suffer.
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