Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cages

Many people here in Cuba have parrots. It seems to be the pet of choice. I would assume that is because it provides entertainment and requires little food and maintenance. In one home where I ate, the couple was showing off their parrot’s repertoire. It was amazing to hear it call their names, laugh like they do, whistle, and mimic the dogs bark—and when someone knocked at the door, it would bark, too!

They told me that you cannot take parrots like that out of the country. The elderly grandmother asked whether we had birds like that in the USA. I told her only in pet stores that had imported them. When she learned that they can cost about $300, she tried to convince me to smuggle one back in my sock, exclaiming, “they don’t talk when they are in a sock like that!” When I laughed it off and told her how much trouble I would get in if they caught me, she just shrugged as if to say, “Yeah, but it’s worth the risk.” Heavy sigh.

As I listened to the parrot call the family members, and repeat their common phrases, I thought of the Mynah bird we had when I was a child. It talked a lot, too. Once my Mom put it out in the carport with a sheet over the cage, so cats would not see it and come to bother it. The garbage collectors came up to the carport to pick up the garbage cans (yes, they did such things back in the old days). As they were gathering the cans, the bird began to talk and laugh under it’s sheet. My Mom said all she heard were metal garbage cans clanging and clattering on the ground and the sound of running feet carrying their owners away as fast as they could.

Lourdes said that some neighborhood cats had been coming up to the back door and trying to get to breezeway where they keep their parrot. She was glad they kept it in a cage where the cats could not hurt it. I expect the parrot appreciated the protection, too. There is protection in a cage. Parrots get that protection, the folks in charge of it talk to it every once in a while, give it what it needs to live on, and seem pleased when it says the right things—but at what cost? Do we ever stop to think about the cost in life’s choices?

Cages come in lots of shapes, sizes, and colors. Most are clear; so clear you can feel them but not see them. People here get what they need to live on, but just. There are no wealthy folks among the people, no one living out the “Cuban dream,” and as long as they say the right things, they get what they need to survive. They cannot fly away, though. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to get the cage open. One of the guys here was wondering about how hard it is to leave here. He asked me what kinds of places wouldn’t let you leave when you want to. I told him that the ones that came to mind were communist countries, cults, gangs, and the Mafia. He just nodded and looked down.

This country has many wonderful things about it—like the people and the natural beauty. There is crime surely, but the statistics are way below what other countries are suffering. Juvenile delinquency is not as bad as in many places and the drug problem is very low. One fellow here told me that he is going through the paperwork to get his family out but it scares him sometimes. He knows that there are more opportunities elsewhere but there is the danger of failing there, too. It is a dangerous world out there. Here, many of those crimes that require freedoms and funds are virtually non-existent—but at what cost?

However, as I said, cages come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Have you ever made a life choice, a career choice, or a relationship choice that has left you in a cage? Have you ever wanted to take wing and fly to fulfill a dream, and found yourself preferring the safety of the cage? All you have to do is be a good bird, not make too much noise or too much of a mess, say the things that they want to hear, appreciate it when they stop by your cage to spend a moment or two, and they will give you what you need to live on. There is comfort, provision, and protection in the cages we choose—but at what cost?

If you are on the verge of a decision for your life, think about the cage. Don’t live in a cage. There are people all over the world who would give anything to get out, fly free, and do and be what God created them to do and be. And, there are many, many more who used to want to fly free, but the cage has become too comfortable, predictable, and anything outside of it is too threatening. They stopped wanting out long ago. The ones in charge could even leave the cage door open. The anxiety of an open door would terrify them—not just because of the danger of what could get in and endanger their comfortable life in the cage, but the paralysis of analysis as they contemplate the possibilities. Are you in a cage? Are you about to be? Have you had the chance to get out and fly free but were afraid of the risks?

As you decide, and prepare to live with your decisions, think of those who are in cages and want out and those who are in cages and have long ago lost the will to want out. Remember, most of us, most of the time, make our own cages. Don’t live in a cage—fly free.

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