Is That a Paddling Pool I Hear?

A fellow member of the self-isolating bird club posted this on line

“For the past few weeks I’ve been hearing a repetitive high pitched squeaky call. It’s been quite persistent for a few minutes every day. I was sure it was a rare bird visiting the area as my bird call app couldn’t identify it. Then today my partner pointed out that it was actually a neighbour pumping up a paddling pool.”

We don’t all see things in the same way. This person wanted it to be a bird, was actively looking for what birds she could find in her garden and immediate area and so her focus was on bird song; that’s what she heard.

I was once taught that a dunnock, (a little brown bird with a grey head and orange legs), sounded like a squeaky wheel on a supermarket trolley. It does, but once I’d learnt that you’d be surprised at how many dunnocks I heard around Tesco!

I also learnt that a garden warbler sounds like a fishing reel as it is wound in. I heard lots of these uncommon little birds around Swineshaw reservoir when out with a friend birdwatching. They seemed to be gathered around the area where angling was permitted!

I heard what I wanted to hear. The lady on Facebook heard what she wanted to hear and there have been times when I’ve looked at a bird and tried to convince myself that it’s something else, something much rarer, that I haven’t already ticked off on my list. One year in Shetland I stared at a bird that I knew was an Arctic Tern and willed it to grow long tail streamers so it could be a Roseate Tern. I asked Colin “It does have long tail streamers doesn’t it?” but he wouldn’t agree with me. Eventually I had to admit to its true identity.

One problem I find with email is that you can’t see the person’s face or read their body language or hear the tone of voice. I once replied very firmly to an email from my sister and then when I re read it in a slightly different way realised that what she had said was right. Fortunately, she read my reply differently and thought I was agreeing with her. So, no harm done! Care is needed when not in front of the person.

I was quite upset by a Facebook post this week. A post which seemed to me to be uncaring, judgemental and certainly showing no compassion or understanding. I wrote a number of responses and discarded each one deciding that if I wanted to reply I should do it in person once social distancing is over so that mistakes as to what was said and what was meant can be avoided and my response cannot be misconstrued.

I love the quote

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”

It says so much and is so true. A friend sent me a picture of two books. The first was very thin and had the title “What I Said”. The second was much, much thicker with the title “What You Heard.” So many mistakes are made when we communicate with others and how much more easy is it to get things wrong when using social media or email?

At this difficult time when people are feeling the stress of being isolated and, for some, alone, we need to be careful of what we say and how we say it. Email, telephone, Facebook, Twitter, and all the variety of ways we have at our disposal to keep in touch all lack one thing – the ability to see the person you are communicating with. We don’t know what is happening in a person’s life at the moment they read that post; they cannot judge our body language, tone of voice or facial expression.

So, be careful what you post, write or say when not face to face with the person you are “talking” to. Be kind in what you say and stop and think whether or not your remarks could be seen as hurtful even if they are not meant to be.

Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”


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