The early bird gets the worm is an expression I’m sure you’ve heard. You may have even said it to someone or had it said to you; especially in preparation for students returning back to school. I even saw a meme on social media joking about people practicing to get back into their wakeup routines because as we all know…”the early bird gets the worm.” But in my latest revelation, I believe the term “The early bird gets the worm” should be reconsidered; as it seems we’ve taken the term out of context.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
The expression, “The early bird gets the worm” is an old proverb (not to be confused with a Biblical Proverb) that emphasizes the importance put on beginning a task early in order to maximize the potential outcome. Being first is believed to improve ones chances of success.
Though I do somewhat agree and have agreed for years with this notion, I believe the emphasis placed on doing it first or early somewhat dismisses the importance of mindset and condition. Yes, I am a strong believer that getting out early and taking care of one’s affairs allows one more time to get things done. However, the conflict arises when emphasis is placed more on time and not enough on preparation.
It’s not the early bird that necessarily gets the best outcome…it’s the bird with intentionality and guided purpose going after what it wants.
Having become an actual bird enthusiast, I am becoming pretty familiar with bird patterns and behaviors. Birds (like humans) have schedules, preferences, and class structure – or pecking order.
When I began my new hobby, I started with hummingbirds who are actually drawn to liquid nectar. For the hummingbirds, I learned very quickly that they don’t like the nectar you buy from the store; so, if you’re thinking about it, don’t waste your time. Hummingbirds prefer just good old fashioned sugar water – one cup of sugar stirred into two cups water; boiled for two minutes and then adding two additional cups of water; let cool and add it to your feeder. I promise you, your neighbors will think you’re running a bootleg hummingbird liquor store. For real!
The Predictable, Yet Petty
Once I learned their special formula, the hummingbirds not only began to show up regularly, but I could pretty much predict when they would begin feeding. Once they started feeding, they cycled through all day. They also became really comfortable with human activity, and are rarely phased when I or one of my family members is nearby. They know where they like to feed and the taste of what they want to drink. What they don’t like is when other hummingbirds try to drink from the same feeder. It’s not so bad with younger birds. The young hummers are not as aggressive, and can occasionally be found feeding together; but as they age, they become very territorial and spend most of their time wrangling with each other versus feeding. Sound familiar?
When we’re young, we find it easier to coexist with others; but as we age we become defensive and territorial – untrusting and even prejudice. Desiring what is normal and showing up at the same time as everyone else, but then have the audacity to believe that what we’re after should only be exclusive to us. We can have a innate need or like that is necessary for our sustainment, but somehow have a difficult time supporting others with the same need if it inconveniences or conflicts with our immediate wants or values. Even if our opposition to others inevitably hurts us in the process.
But enough about the hummingbirds; let’s get on to the early birds and their worms.
Not So Common
So, once I got the hummingbirds figured out, I assumed feeding natural or “common” birds (robins, cardinals, blue jays, sparrows) would be easy. I soon found out, there were some lessons I had to learn.
When I went to buy a bird feeder, I never realized there were so many choices. Though hummingbird feeders come in different varieties too, their general purpose and functions are all the same. It’s just a matter of…Do you want the one for $1 or $40? But common bird feeders not only come in a variety of styles but also different functionalities- tubes, hoppers, platforms, and cages or suets. I won’t bore you; but who knew? Maybe the “common” birds I had in mind aren’t so “common” after all.
As I searched to find the perfect feeder, I learned that each type of bird feeder actually requires a specific type of food and will attract certain types of birds to them. Some feeders are ideal for seed mixes. Others are made for seed cakes (which look a lot like our version of a rice cakes, but are made of seeds instead). But then there is the obvious choice – a feeder specific for mealworms. MEALWORMS?! This had to be the favored meal choice of champion birds, right?! Because, remember… the saying goes… “The early bird gets the WORM.” Isn’t that what we’ve learned for years now? So, it just makes perfect sense that birds want mealworms.
After some time, I made my selections. As to not discriminate against any birds, I bought a tube feeder and some morning bird seeds that promise to attract a variety of birds. How exciting! I also chose a bird saucer for the seed cake. I was interested to see how that worked out. AND, as I’m sure you guessed, I bought the prized mealworms and the recommended hopper feeder; because worms are what birds like the most, remember.
When I got my new project home, I hung the feeders from a multi-tiered staff in my back garden, situated not too far from my sitting room window. The natural birds, along with the hummingbirds, would give me consistent observation of the beauty and amazement of God’s creations.
I hung the tube feeder of seeds at the very top, the mealworms in the middle, and the seed cake on the lower hook. I was interested to see which types of birds would be drawn to the different feeders. Was this about to be a beautiful sight to behold…or a scene from the horror movie Birds? I hoped not the latter.
Now, if legend serves me correctly, these mealworms should serve as the birds’ breakfast. I was so excited to put them out. I imagined there would hardly be a worm left by the time I checked the feeder again. The empty feeder would be a sign to me that the myth was correct. “The early bird gets the worm.” Well, you can imagine my disappointment the next day when I went outside and found the worm feeder just as full as when I filled it. I thought to myself, “Maybe I have the feeder in the wrong location.” So, I moved it. I moved it down a bit on the stand; so it would be closer to ground-level, where worms are usually found.
The next day…still nothing.
I decided to move the worm feeder again. This time across the yard so that it wouldn’t have to compete with the other meal options.
Two weeks passed and the birds had not even as much as touched a single worm. And I only put a small amount out because I wanted to see their eating habits first, before I offered more; so it wasn’t like I had overdone it. How disappointing.
One day I glared out the window to watch the bird traffic. The birds did swoop down in flight to take a look at the worms, but then immediately continued straight on to the seeds. Where the seed feeders were, there were birds gathered on the fence; on the stand; perched on the feeders themselves; and some birds grazing on the ground for the seeds that had fallen. These birds were not interested AT ALL in those worms. Well…my feelings were hurt. I wanted to get it right and help contribute to the food source of nature. I thought to myself, “But the early bird catches the worm. Why don’t these birds like my worms?” Then the revelation came, “Why would it settle for a worm when there are other options? Would you choose a worm over a seed?!”
Then, I began to think. Too often in life we’re figuratively digging for the worms when we should be looking for seeds.
Value in the Seed
Don’t mistake me. I’m not really trying to make an argument about what birds naturally eat or don’t eat; nor am I negating the worms purpose to nature. I would, however, like to emphasize the value of a seed. In comparison (when we think about it), the worm is dirt; and we compare dirt to dead things. But a seed, even when dry, still has the capability of reproducing and multiplying into something new and valuable.
And can I share another somewhat disgusting but intriguing fact about birds and what they eat? Both worms and seeds alike offer good sources of protein for birds, but when a bird eats a worm the benefit is to the bird alone. When birds eat seeds and excrete them, the fecal matter actually fertilizes the seed and fuels the seed’s chances to grow in a new environment; therefore, bringing growth in a new place.
This summer, a friend and I were sitting on her back porch. I was admiring her yard and flowers, and she was sharing with me the varieties of plants she had. Right next to her canna lilies was what seemed like an out-of-place pot. There used to be another kind of plant growing there, she shared; but that plant had long died. Now there were squash growing in the pot.
When I asked why she decided to plant squash there, she explained that she didn’t. Well that didn’t make sense. How could a plant as specific as a squash be growing in her fenced back yard if she didn’t plant it? That’s when I first learned about the rebirth of the seed. Debbie explained that once the other plant died…birds would come and play in the pot and that their bird poop had planted the new seed. I was both in awe and disbelief; but through my own bird chronicles, the matter seems clearer.
Comparatively, when what we thought we wanted dies, and we are stuck with digesting what seems like the mess of it all; in due season something new and more valuable will take root and grow. And it won’t be just something we can look at, but rather, something we can eat.
Food for Thought
Ask yourself. Are you the early bird who’s just digging for worms? Just up and seeking for what’s convenient and digesting only what benefits you? Or are you seeking with intentionality the seeds; and eating on things that bring a rebirthing or newness to yourself and others? I pray you’re the latter.
The next time you hear or see the expression “The early bird gets the worm,” think of it differently. Yes, there are definitely benefits to being out there early; but position without intentionality and purpose are pointless, especially if you’re not selective about what you eat. Ditch the worms. Go for the seeds. ~Dawn ☀
Thank you for taking the time to read and hear my thoughts. If my words resonated with you or you feel they’ll benefit someone else, just pass it along. And, if you missed my previous blog, Arrested Development – a conversation helping to unpack “daddy issues,” be sure to check it out.
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Still to Come
Though experiencing more delays than I would like, if you are interested in obtaining a copy of my new book, a devotional entitled, 5-Day Morning C.O.F.F.E.E. Devotion, email me at email@example.com and put in the subject line: I WANT A COPY. From there, I’ll forward you the information necessary to pre-order your copy and have it shipped directly to you. The acronym C.O.F.F.E.E., thought it pertains to the morning, does not stand for drinking; but rather, C.O.F.F.E.E. stands for Chicks of Faith, Focused, Encouraged, and Empowered. I wanted to send a reminder that pick-me-up from daily coffee only lasts temporarily. The pick-me-up that God and our faith provides is eternal.
This devotional was written with the intent of helping women develop and deepen their faith walk; providing both a method and a message for those who are new to daily devotions, or those who need help strengthening the habit. I also hope to help those needing peace and clarity in life; as I delve into understanding and expecting God’s peace, strength, joy, and love while seeking His presence daily with intentionality. Get a copy for you and a friend.
After some additional revisions, printing is on backorder, but will be available soon. Stay connected for more information.