As my husband put it, our home was Squirrel Grand Central last week.
It started with a squeak from the garage. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but there he was… a baby squirrel. Small enough to curl up in your palm, he sniffed tentatively at my husband’s hand. It didn’t take long until he was cuddled up to Stefan, looking for warmth.
He clearly was still in need of his mama but was just big enough to attempt to venture on his own for a few steps. Because of our previous experience with a baby squirrel about 4 years ago, we knew he must have fallen from the nest and assumed mama squirrel would be looking for him. Stefan and I took turns holding him, but left him where we found him with hope mama would return. We put him in an open shoe box with some rags so he wouldn’t have to be on the cold concrete all night. By the next day, he was still there. He didn’t want to be left alone, and even tried to follow me if I was near. Gavin named him Jack, and said that Jack loved him.
The boys didn’t have school that day, so we left and went to the park. I left the garage door cracked so the mama could easily get to him. When we returned, he had left the garage just enough to be in the sunshine, right at the edge of the garage door.
He was so desperate for contact, he climbed up my leg and tried to settle in my hand. Looking for warmth and breath, someone to give him what he needed.
I tried moving him to the deck in our backyard because the squirrels run a path along the rails and our kitchen garden window quite frequently. I hoped he would be discovered there because we knew he had been without nourishment now for at least 24 hours.
He crawled out and found the sun again, laying there for the entire afternoon. By evening, he had wandered down the stairs and under the deck. Just after sunset I searched for him with bated breath, praying that he and mama had reunited. I didn’t find him, (I even called out to him just in case) so I resolved that he was okay and had found his family.
Stefan searched one more time, and I am so thankful he did. There was Jack, hidden behind the mower, laying on top of an adult squirrel. Unfortunately, this squirrel was not alive. It broke my maternal heart, so we got him back in his box and brought him in. After some research, we found that we could try Pedialyte just to get him hydrated.
After Stefan “nursed” him, we put some warm water bottles in the box and kept him close to a heating vent for the night. We found that there was a Wildlife Rescue Center about 40 minutes away, and determined we could take him there in the morning.
Thankfully, Jack made it. We turned him over to the experts and bid him farewell. My tenderhearted Gavin cried when he said goodbye that morning, wishing we could keep him as our family pet.
I felt as though we had done a good job, caring for an orphaned animal, going out of our way to save him, looking out for one of God’s creatures. It was a good opportunity for our boys to see gentleness and model a caring heart when our help was needed. Parenting win. All is well.
As I walked by the door to the garage that afternoon, I heard it.
I opened the door, stood quietly for a moment.
I began my hunt, scrutinizing every corner. I knew there was another baby squirrel. After enlisting Stefan’s help again, we found not one, but two more baby squirrels.
We searched the garage, but failing to find any more, we gave them Jack’s previous setup in the shoebox.
Since it now appeared there were three squirrel brothers, we let our other two boys name these two.
We took Bruce and Tommy to reunite with Jack the next morning. They were struggling as well, but we made the trip again and delivered them to the shelter safely.
That afternoon, I had taken out the trash and come back inside the house.
You have got to be kidding me.
And when I stepped back into the garage, there was one more. Gavin named him “Surprise-y”.
This one was really having a hard time. His nose was bleeding a little, I suspect from the fall to the garage floor. At this point, we had the routine down.
Box, check. Warm water bottles, check. Pedialyte in a bulb syringe, check.
And another 40 minute drive the next morning. (Did I mention this was 40 minutes one way?)
Needless to say we searched the attic, garage, and all surrounding areas that evening to be sure we did not miss anymore of the squirrel family. But once again, Lincoln and I took the last of the orphaned squirrels to the rescue.
By the end of the week, I was exhausted. I thought, “If I find one more stinkin’ squirrel….”
But we didn’t. We had served these little creatures to the best of our ability, and the rest was up to the good people who were trained for these situations.
The thought kept surfacing in my brain, “Are we crazy? Would most people do this for a squirrel? How on earth can we keep making trips across the city for these little things, when there are a million of them in my backyard!” (Not to mention the damage these little buggers have done to our attic, porch, and garage.)
Since our pastor has been doing a sermon series on loving like Jesus, I was prompted to keep going. No, not because I am an animal activist or think that animals are equal to humans, but because the Holy Spirit was organizing the puzzle pieces in my mind.
When we love people like Jesus, at first it can feel good. I pat myself on the back, put a gold star by my name for the day and rest easily. But the reality is, loving like Jesus is not easy. One time, sure. It’s nice and not that hard to help someone out when it’s convenient. But what about that second, or third trip across town when you have laundry, a dirty house, a job, church group, a prayer meeting, and a million other things to do? What if they have destroyed something, or hurt you? What if it’s messy and ugly and doesn’t give you warm fuzzies?
Does the gold star seem as shiny then?
It’s easy to tell myself that I really don’t need a gold star that day. It’s more convenient to make excuses, to make justifications that no one expects me to do that. This kind of thing happens all the time, I can’t save every squirrel.
No, I can’t save every single one. But we saved those four.
I can’t do everything for everyone. I can’t finance every homeless person, or care for each sick friend. I can’t take the time to encourage all the hurting people or give up all my time.
But I can for one.
I can for those in my path. I can for those off my path a little. And sometimes, I may have to go off-roading. If I am listening to the quiet nudging of the Holy Spirit, surely I can put a few things on hold to help someone who is hurting.
And it has nothing to do with gold stars.
I needed this reminder. It’s not glamorous or prestigious, convenient or clean. Loving like Jesus sometimes looks like saving orphaned squirrels. The world may think I am crazy, but I know all those little guys needed was warmth, care, and someone to fight for them.
What squirrels can you save today?
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40