I went to the Campus Center at Allegheny College to pick up the student newspaper. It hadn’t arrived yet.

I was walking up the stairs to the third floor and I heard/saw a bird fluttering against the glass panes of the large window by the stairwell landing. I stopped.

I spoke in soothing tones; I wanted to calm her. I wanted her to stop beating herself against the glass. At any movement or sound that echoed up the stairwell, the bird would leap and start to flutter her wings against the window. She could see or sense or feel the trees, the sky and the sun beyond the glass. She couldn’t grasp the concept or reality of that transparent, hard barrier that was blocking her way.

She couldn’t see the glass that was stopping her. She could only sense the freedom that lay beyond it.

Every time she’d slide back down the glass, she’d stand on the sill. I could see her chest and feathers rise and fall quickly.

I didn’t want to leave her and I wanted to help. I needed a box. If I could get her in a box, I could carry her outside.

I waited. I stayed on the stairwell landing. I simply stayed with her.

I saw a maintenance worker pass below–I’d smiled at him earlier when I’d entered the building.

“Excuse me,” I called. He looked up. I explained there was a bird trapped inside and I needed a box. He came to look and then left. He spoke to another man–a coworker–and they went in search of a box.

They were gone several minutes. I got impatient. I wanted to go to The Campus office; it wasn’t far. Maybe there was a box in there.

And I didn’t want to leave the bird alone. Someone might come by and startle her–she might fly away to another place in the building–I’d lose sight of her.

I waited. I stayed.

The man returned with the perfect box. At first, we opened the flaps and pressed the box over the top of the bird, trying to force her into the box. Each time we lifted it to close the flaps, the bird would fly out and start beating her wings against the glass, trying to climb away, trying to fly away.

Then we decided to set the flap on the window sill and tilt the box up–quietly encouraging the bird into the box. The man closed the flaps on the box and I took it. I headed upstairs and out the third-floor exit.

I passed two women coming into the building. I explained I had a bird in the box, that she had been trapped inside. They kept going inside. I went out.

The bird had been still all this time.

I set the box on the ground and opened the flaps. A brief moment passed.

The bird burst out of the box–with a couple of quick flaps of her wings, she was in the air and out of sight.

I wish I had words for what I felt when i saw the bird burst out of the box and into the wide blue sky.

A zing of happiness straight to my heart. Giddy joy. Awe-struck reverence for the bolt to freedom. And I was there to witness it.

I smiled.

I wished the other people had stayed to see it and feel it: the men working in the building, the women entering the building. I wished they could feel that zing of happiness, witness the beauty of the bird soaring free.

I closed the box. As I walked I thought, What if my whole life is for this one moment? For helping this battering-her-wings, fear-beating-her-heart-faster bird?

What if my whole life was for this moment? To watch this bird fly free on a sunny Friday morning in Pennsylvania?

And then I thought…what if…

the bird is me.

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