Sister Annie was taking a walk outside after supper. As she emerged from the woods, she passed the dumpster behind our elementary school. As she did, she heard, “THUMP!… THUMP-THUMP!…. THUMP!… THUMP!” She stopped. “Something’s trapped inside the dumpster!” she thought. Was it a bird, perhaps?
She went to the dumpster and carefully lifted the lid a few inches. Immediately the thumping stopped. If it was a bird trapped inside, then surely it would fly out. But nothing happened. And the dumpster was too tall for her to see inside. After a few minutes she put the lid down (it was heavy!) and went to the side of the dumpster where there was a sliding door. Cautiously she slid open the door a little and peered into the darkness. And there it was on the floor of the empty dumpster: a small furry creature only about 6 inches long. When Annie saw his bushy tail, she was relieved. At least it wasn’t a rat.
But the most distinctive thing about the animal were his eyes. They were very large. Annie concluded, whatever (or whoever) this creature was, he was nocturnal—and was probably alarmed by the light Annie had let into the dumpster. Immediately she knew what to do. She went back to the edge of the woods where she spotted a long, dead branch caught in one of the evergreens. Perfect! She yanked it from the tree. The tree was probably happy to have it removed from its branches, she thought. Then Annie quickly returned to the dumpster. She carefully placed the branch inside the dumpster, one end resting on the floor, the other end sticking out the door. She had made the animal a bridge to freedom! Then Annie stood nearby and watched. Nothing happened. That’s when she realized that the nocturnal animal was probably not going to venture out into the light. He would wait until dark to emerge from his prison.
Meanwhile, Annie went inside to her computer. She looked up animals in northeast Ohio and, after a little while, discovered exactly who her little friend was: a southern flying squirrel (glaucomys volans)! She was surprised to learn this type of squirrel is the most common squirrel in Ohio—but very few people know this! (Annie and I didn’t!) And very few Ohioans have ever seen one—because they are nocturnal!
Southern flying squirrels don’t really fly, of course. They glide using the membrane that stretches from their wrists to their ankles. Ordinarily they glide between 30 and 40 feet. But in one documented glide, a particular southern flying squirrel “flew” (drum roll, please!) a whopping 240 feet! They are extremely agile in “flight,” even being able to do U-turns in mid air! (See videos below).
This story of the southern flying squirrel trapped in a dumpster ends happily. The next morning Sister Annie went to the dumpster and looked inside. The squirrel was gone. She was elated. One of God’s little creatures was saved from probable death by the chance passing of a Sister—who also happened to be a caring and creative human being!
This story reminds me of how little we know of the world we inhabit… how amazing this particular little being really is… and how our respect and care must reach out to our entire earth community.
What does this story say to you?
Is there anything in particular that strikes you?
Have you ever had a similar experience where you helped someone other than a human being? Would you share your story below?
PS: Sister Annie really loves and respects all animals. She’s been a vegan for over six years. I wrote about her on my Oct. 1, 2018 post entitled “Interview with a Vegan.” You can access that post by typing the title or date in the search box at the top on the right.
PS #2: I ask your prayers for a retreat I’ll be giving this week for the Sisters of Charity in Leavenworth, KS. The theme of the retreat is “Hanging onto Hope in Our Beautiful and Imperfect World.” The sisters and I appreciate the support of your prayers!
Here are two short videos. The first is from “Animal Diaries” (11 mins.) and features southern flying squirrels at a animal refuge. This video shows flying squirrels in action (they’re so quick!) and also interacting with their caregiver. You’ll also see two tiny baby southern flying squirrels. They certainly merit a 10 on the cuteness scale! The second video (2 mins.) from the BBC features larger flying squirrels. David Attenborough narrates and shows these squirrels flying in the woods at night. Wow! These videos are well worth 13 minutes of your life!
Video #1: Animal Refuge
Video #2: BBC
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