Years ago I worked in a school where our school secretary had a sign on her desk that read, "It is hard to soar like an eagle when you work with buzzards." That made everyone laugh when they read it because few of us think of buzzards as birds to admire or emulate. After all, they most often are seen on the sides of roads in groups munching out on road kill, sometimes narrowly escaping being turned into it themselves. Buzzards are birds that fly in circles in the sky trying to pick out their next prey, or so we have been taught by television programs and cartoons. When we see a group of buzzards circling somewhere we often begin to look for something dead because we figure it will be the next meal for the buzzards.
Lately I have had time to watch buzzards flying the sky, however, and I have seen a much different picture of them. The ones I have seen recently were graceful, riding on the air currents high in the air, hardly flapping their wings at all, but just soaring with the breeze and gently flying here and there in the air. Sure, they may still have their eyes peeled, scanning the ground below them to find their next meal but as they did it they looked anything but threatening. In fact, I was fascinated watching them. They were graceful and smooth in their flight in the sky.
Buzzards get a bad rap because we think all they are good for is cleaning up after our cars when we hit the local small creatures who try to cross the road to get to the other side. Yes, they do that, and for their work we should appreciate them. What would it be like if no creatures ate the dead ones that litter our roadways and roadsides? We would have piles of stinking critter corpses here and there and most of us would refrain from going down the road that contained them until nature eliminated them from view and that may take a long time. Luckily for us, we have the friendly buzzards. They descend from on high and snack on the road kill and clean up the place for us so we can travel without fear of needing a can of glade everywhere we go.
So, that brings us to the point of this story. How often do we complain about others and think they serve no useful purpose? When do we overlook the good in others and not see that they may help out in ways that we did not consider? Even those whom we think may be of little value to society may actually serve very valuable purposes.
Beggars and lepers in the ancient world were looked down upon and were despised by most persons in society. Many religious persons would cross the street to avoid passing close to one of those persons. Jesus often embraced them, literally and socially, and brought healing to their lives. They were restored to society and lived meaningful and useful lives because of his kindness.
When we encounter others with whom we find little value or commonness, it is easy to want to pass them by and ignore them, but perhaps the gift of community is what they long for...and we can find ways to include them and help them find acceptance if we reflect upon what God would have us to for our fellow humans.