The Author

Looking Around

I mowed the yard for the first time this year last weekend. It didn’t really need it, but it was a pretty day and I wanted to be outside. I wasn’t alone because I could hear the sound of other mowers in the neighborhood.

I also noticed that there was a lot of traffic on the street for a late Saturday morning. Cars are not unusual for the street because it is the main road into the neighborhood. What I did notice, though, was that most of them weren’t traveling at their usual breakneck speed. In fact, most of them were slowing down in front of my neighbors’ yard and looking at something.

It was a turkey buzzard, one of the ugliest birds in creation. Black wings, pocked and mottled red skin stretched across its face, a hooked nose designed for tearing prey, turkey buzzards are spread all across Texas. Anyone who has driven a lonely stretch of Texas highway has come across one of these birds feeding in the middle of the road. More than once, I have wondered if the one I was barreling down upon was going to lift off from the pavement in time. I have seen thousands from the inside of a car; they always survived.

They are rarely seen in the city, preferring the isolation and relative quiet of the country. Whether it was because this one had lost its way, its nest had been disturbed by construction, or it just needed a rest on its way somewhere else, this one had landed next door. When I realized what everyone was stopping for, I indulged in a little arrogance: “Haven’t you people ever seen a turkey buzzard before?” I kept on mowing.

After a little while, I caught a glimpse of something moving out of the corner of my eye, and turned to watch the visitor take a lumbering run and launch himself into the air. He cleared the street, circled the creek, and was gone.

In seconds I realized that I had passed up an opportunity that might not ever come again, I had the opportunity to walk across the lawn and look closely at something that, while I claimed I had seen plenty before, had always been at a distance and seventy miles an hour. My arrogance and presumption kept me from actually seeing something.

I have a feeling that I am not alone in that experience and, I’m afraid, that it is not limited to turkey buzzards. The old saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” I would add that it also leads to blindness, the inability to see what is truly there. It happens in our neighbors’ yards, around the kitchen table, in church. Because we are so sure that we “know,” we miss what is new, what is real, whether it is with our spouse, kids, parents, friends. Or even worship, Jesus, Easter.

The next time I get a chance to look, I pray I will. I’ll pray the same for you.