The Sparrow in the AirportMay 31, 2022 09:30AM ● By Kathy Milano
Waiting for my luggage at the airport, I was startled as a sparrow swooped low before me.
I enjoyed watching the aerobatics of this small miracle as it moved effortlessly above and through the milling crowds. Mostly invisible to those chatting or gazing anxiously at the luggage belt, this little bird appeared to be purposeful. Never still for long, the sparrow carried a speck of human food to the rafters and then was off to the next crumb.
I felt a sense of delight watching this bird until I noticed a sadness arising within me.
I contemplated her life in the baggage claim area, then imagined how easy it would be for her to bypass the elevator and fly up the escalator—giving this winged creature free rein throughout the massive airport with plenty to explore in the food court and glimpses of sunlight at the wall of windows at each gate. Yet, I wondered if there were spaces that allowed my little friend easy access to an indoor-outdoor style of living or if she was confined to a prison of artificial lights, stale air and crumbs from Starbucks.
I wondered if she sang much or missed flying on the air currents to land in a tree which was dancing in rhythm to the breeze. I wondered if she even knew there was more than airport living, if she ever yearned for freedom or thought she was already living free. The sparrow didn’t seem dampened down by her unnatural home, so I let go of that sadness.
I realized that any creature, human included, could live free in a prison or live bound in a life of abundant opportunity.
Hearing the luggage belt fire up, I turned to watch the people crowd forward, captivated as each bag fell to the circling belt, struggling to grab a suitcase and wrestle it onto solid ground. Their faces ranged from bored to anxious to frustrated. It looked like the vacation was over and reality had returned.
After flying the friendly skies, I wondered whether my fellow passengers were living free or were unintentionally imprisoned.
Since I wasn’t in charge of the luggage, I was free to reflect upon that question for myself.
If asked what brings meaning to my life and makes me happy, I’d easily express what matters and what I love. I imagine we are all able to do the same. Sometimes it takes some reflection to really hone that list. It’s worth exploring by ourselves or in a heart-to-heart conversation with good friends. A few key questions can help us mine for gold.
What really, truly matters to us in this life? What brings us happiness? How can we live a meaningful life?
That sparrow helped me recognize how easy it is to acclimate to our surroundings and perhaps let the most important things slide in our day-to-day lives. When we don’t explore these questions, it’s easy to live on autopilot. Flying about our day, settling for crumbs.
In time, living an unintentional life shrinks our potential for meaning, growth and even happiness.
The longer we live in the unnatural world of societal expectations, the more likely we’ll fall asleep to our original dreams, delights and desires … and perhaps just be glad to make it through the week unscathed, waiting until that day when we’ve raised the kids, met our career goals, met that person, etc., to find contentment.
The societal map for a successful life often guides people to live like that sparrow: happily flying around in an airport.
We may feel we’re innocently imprisoned in a shiny, artificial environment, grateful for company, Chick-fil-A nuggets and sunshine through panes of glass. “Not me!” we proclaim. Yet, something within tells us differently. Here’s a way to find out how free or imprisoned we are actually living. Answer those three questions and create a short list of the most important answers.
These are our Map Markers that may guide us and alert us to times we have strayed from the Path of Meaning and Happiness.
Once we have that list, take a look at how we are living day to day. Are the items on our list represented in our everyday activities, emotions, intentions and relationships? Does our daily energy sing in harmony with what’s most important or does it feel heavy, depleted or flat as we go about our week? Are we bound by obligation, schedules and activities we’d rather let go of or are we truly free to live what matters most to us?
Look deeply into these questions and conduct an honest appraisal of our lives.
Most of us will find a discrepancy between what we say matters most and how we actually live our days. It’s the nature of modern life to get caught in the binding of a life dictated by societal and familial expectations. Tell the truth, make no excuses and be gentle with oneself as we explore the distance between our dreams and desires and how we lived today.
Take heart, for this awareness hands us the key to our unintentional prison.
With intent, we begin to craft a life aligned with our list, bringing fulfillment and happiness (or whatever matters most to us). In time, we’ll recognize how the changes within us shift the landscape around us, gradually bringing our dreaming into alignment with our daily lives.
Sparrows are described as small, light birds that easily fit through tight spaces and effortlessly soar to the tops of tall trees—revealing their capacity to connect to the higher realms, to fly free and perhaps to easily exit the Philadelphia airport any time they chose. However they live, I’m grateful for that little teacher who swooped down to invite me to take a long look at how I spend my moments and whether that aligns with what matters most.
Kathy Milano, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, Diplomate, Comprehensive Energy Psychology, is the owner of the Energetic Muse, LLC. For more information, call 856-778-1981 or visit KathyMilano.com.