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We the living must carry on

Now that Gerald Wilkinson has died, the rest of us have more work to do.

I am sorry if you did not know Mr. Wilkinson.

I am very sorry I did not know him either until I read his obituary last week. But I was so moved by the portraits of him that came into focus in his obituary. I wish I could have known him years before cancer overcame him at age 85 in Hometown.

He started out on his path of generosity as a young man. After his father died when Wilkinson was only 18, he helped to raise his little brother who was only 2, the obituary explained.

He was a devoted husband who had the good sense to think of his wife as his best friend, as well as his mate, the obituary continued.

After his brother fledged, Wilkinson turned his attention to the beautiful martins in his neighborhood. He built and maintained birdhouses for them, but he was also on the alert for anything that could go wrong for the baby birds.

Almost every summer, I experience bird heartbreak. Birds enjoy nesting in my yard, and I enjoy seeing the babies when their heads start peeping out above the edge of the nests. But when those baby birds get a few wild feathers on their little bobbing heads, they will sometimes give you a look when their parents are away that translates to: Watch this! I know they think that while Momma Bird and Daddy Bird are out catching a snack, it would be a great time to try out some special moves. I always talk to them and give meaningful directions like: Stay in that nest!

But I now know Mr. Wilkinson was a man of action, not just meaningless finger wagging.

He rigged up a long pole that he used to place baby birds safely back into the house. I wish I could have seen this in reality, but in my mind's eye I can certainly see this thoughtful, patient man making sure that even a tiny bird has a second chance for a secure nest. Whoever wrote the obituary explained, "Each year the martins returned to the houses where they knew they would be safe and cared for."

What greater joy for bird or man could there be?

Christ told his disciples: For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. As the story unfolded, Jesus explained that "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

Wilkinson understood Christ's message and was always ready to give of himself whether to his younger brother or a tiny bird. Without question, Wilkinson lived his life giving whenever he was needed. Now we the living must take over for him. He pulled his own weight and the weight of those in need throughout his life. "He will forever be remembered," the obituary states, "for his love and devotion to God's creatures."

Christ also encouraged us to "look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

Now we need to add Wilkinson's workload to our own. If a child in need crosses our path, we must follow Wilkinson's great example. If a fledgling needs our protection, we must not hesitate.

Wilkinson left us many thoughtful examples of how to be a caring person. His hands and heart are still now. Our hands and hearts must be ready to make the world a little safer and a little more loving for all of God's creatures. Williams is a staff writer for the Charleston Gazette.


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