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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

“Something’s Trapped Inside the Dumpster!”


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.

Southern flying squirrel (glaucomys volans)


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 squirrel in mid-glide… Wheeee!


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.


For reflection:

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




Please leave a comment below! We welcome your input!

12 Responses

  1. One summer day while cleaning, I heard an unfamiliar sound. A different bird perhaps, no a fawn “ crying”. It had jumped over my neighbors fence and now couldn’t find that high point to jump again. It was becoming more frantic racing around in circles and I feared it would get into the inground pool and drown. My neighbor and I tried to lead it to the higher ground and after quite a time we were successful as the fawn jumped the fence. It got stuck half way over but finally was able to get its rump free. The mother and sibling returned to lead it away. I’m sure i saw it again days later eating my flowers!!

  2. A number of years ago we lived in a home with a water garden at the side of the house that could be viewed from the kitchen. The water attracted numerous animals and birds, including a heron, hawks, frogs, and one day a baby possum. It had fallen into the water and was struggling to stay afloat. We had an old pool skimmer, so I went and got it and gave the baby opossum a lift “to shore.” True to its nature, it lay on its side for a while, playing possum. Eventually, it got up and waddled off. It felt good to have helped the only US marsupial. I am not vegan, but I haven’t rjorieeaten meat or poultry in sixteen years.

  3. We spent most of our lives in the country and those years have seen a succession of rescued animals including rabbits, roosters, cats, dogs and horses. In fact, all of our pets over the last 66 years have been “rescue” animals. One of the stories that stands out in my mind was the summer we had four liters of kittens amidst an infestation of fleas. We actually resorted to an assembly line for flea removal. One child bathed kittens, one child dried kitten and I flea combed kittens. The process was repeated on a weekly basis until the kittens were old enough to find new homes. The alternative would have been a lot of lives lost to anemia. All God’s creatures deserve loving care.

  4. We had an unused fireplace with a metal chimney (not efficient). We had it blocked off with styrofoam pieces wedged in the opening. One day our cat went and sat by the fireplace very intently. We heard some noise from the fireplace, so we put the cat out of the room, opened the door to the outside, took the styrofoam pieces away and out dashed a very confused squirrel. He had fallen into the chimney and because it was metal, he had no foothold to climb back out. He found the door quickly and was gone. We had no idea how long he was in there, but were glad the cat discovered it so it didn’t die in there — and we’d have to deal with the stench and the mess.

  5. Hello, Sister. Love reading your blogs and your videos are always amazing. Have been frustrated though in trying to contact you about doing a retreat for our Council of Catholic Women. No matter what I do, I cannot make it through the submit step. HELP!

  6. I have not recued any wild animals, but I have seen flying squirrels in Northern California. I found them festinating and so wonderous. The Lord provides us with so many marvelous creatures and scenes…

  7. One evening I discovered a snake that was trapped in some netting I had used earlier in the year to cover our blueberry bushes. The holes in the netting were about 3/4″ wide. The snake was able to slither into one of the holes but became trapped when the rest of his body got stuck. From close observation; I could tell he had been trapped for a while. Neither my husband nor I are fond of snakes, but the snake was not poisonous and we knew he would die without intervention. Working together, using a hoe and scissors, we were finally able to free him. I never thought I’d rescue a snake (of all things) but all of God’s creatures serve a purpose in our world and deserve to be treated humanely.

  8. Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
    Good morning, all…

    You are so right, Sister, there’s so much of the world we just don’t know about. God bless, Sr. Annie! She seems like such a gentle soul. I would say her efforts to liberate the flying squirrel from the dumpster is a prayer unto itself (also an act of courage!). I also think her act of mercy serves as some sort of metaphor. Are we in need of rescue from the “dumpsters” of despair or darkness?

    I’m pretty sure we could all listen to David Attenborough all day long!

  9. Sitting outside with my morning coffee and combining reflection with guarding a strawberry and a couple of other plants from the really morning birds and bunnies who make this area their breakfast buffet. After today’s blog I am now sitting back watching and nor shooing. Thanks for the lesson, Annie and Melannie.

  10. How many times does God place the helpful stick as a bridge to salvation in our path? How often do we fail to see it? Or see it but are too frightened to use it?

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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