Being in the flock.


Imagine you have been dropped off on a small island. You and one other person were delivered to the island at about the same time. There are 5 other people on this island as well who have been there for quite a while. There are seven of you in total and you are divided into three groups. You all work alongside each other but essentially each group has a different daily task. Just to make it a little more obscure let’s say you are all birds.

One group of birds gathers grass on the island. Another group hunts for worms. The last group collects water.

You personally get along fairly well with the other birds on the island but are not especially close to any of them. The other bird you arrived on the island with also seems to get along well with the others. However you notice when that bird goes off to gather grass the other birds spend a lot of time squawking about that bird. And the talk is not always very nice or supportive of that grass-gathering bird. That bird seems to gather grass a little bit differently from it’s partner-grass-gatherer and from all other grass-gatherers that have come before it.

You are a worm-hunter. So for you it seems hard to pass judgement or make assessments about how the grass gatherer does what he does. So you stay quiet. And while you do not join in the fray of discussion or gossip about the new grass gatherer you also do not defend that grass gatherer or speak up. You put your head down, hunt your worms, and stay neutral.

The island is quite small and ruffling the feathers of the other birds could be pretty uncomfortable. But as the days go by you find you are feeling more and more uncomfortable about not defending the grass gatherer who goes off and does her work diligently and quietly and with what seems like very little support from the other birds on the island. For what it’s worth the grass gatherer reports being content, liking the island, liking the other birds, and being happy with his method for grass gathering. But you are pretty sure she has no idea the other birds are gossiping about her when she is not around.

So here is the question. What to do? Do you speak up to the group? Do you talk to the grass gatherer about what you have heard and seen? Do you continue to stay quiet, hunt worms and not engage in the squawking? Do you accept that the grass-gatherer is content and not rock the boat? Do you defend the grass gatherer even though he has no idea any of this is going on? Do you fly away?

I do not know if there is a right answer to this situation. But I think it is a situation that arises over and over in life – when do you step up and say something and when do you go about your business and decide it does not pertain to you? As someone who is trying to be my own best friend I struggle with the “right” course of action. There is self-preservation and there is also defending someone else who may not even know they need defending. Then again, if that other person is truly content, then do they need defending? Is it my place to decide they need defending if they are truly happy with the situation?

And finally, if the other birds are squawking this much about the new grass gatherer it makes one wonder, what are they saying about the new worm hunter (you) when off hunting for worms? Does that even matter? Is that an environment you would want to stay in? Or would you take steps to learn how to fly away? So, as the new bird on the island do you defend and fight against what was already there, stay quiet and hunt your worms, or fly away?

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