It came to my attention on Wednesday evening that it was National Daughter Day. Who knew? Suddenly I was confronted with a conundrum: do I post a picture of my daughters because if I don’t I’m a bad mother, or do I follow my first impulse and reject the trends of society?
I don’t entirely truck with all of the National Days that have suddenly popped up, so I decided to do some research. Apparently many of these “days” were created to celebrate things that often don’t get celebrated. On National Drinking Straw Day, for example (yes, such a thing exists — it’s on my birthday) straws are suddenly in the forefront of our consciousness throughout the day as people post wonderful photos of themselves with, well, straws. Or at least that’s the hope. It’s like a free ad campaign for straws.
I checked my anniversary, too, and found four National Days. Sadly, none of them involve weddings. Next Aug. 16, if I feel so inclined, I could choose to celebrate National Rum Day, National Airborne Day, National Joke Day and National Roller Coaster Day. Kind of makes me queasy, combining all of that.
You may not realize it, but we missed an important National Day earlier this month. Actually, it’s an International Day. The first Saturday of every September is International Vulture Awareness Day.
Which I kind of love.
My nephew Scott, who grew up on Orcas Island in Washington just as I did, did his high school senior project on turkey vultures. He set up a video camera in his large back yard and put out road kill for the vultures so that he could study them. (Yes, my sister is a patient woman. That and she appreciates the value of science.) People who knew about his project would phone them up to tell them about various road kill that they saw around the island.
The funny thing is, he not only had vultures coming to visit his dead animals; he also attracted eagles. And that made him mad. He didn’t like the eagles stealing the vultures' food! I know. Most people would feel the opposite about their carrion birds.
Because of Scott, I learned that vultures are carrion birds exclusively but eagles are technically birds of prey, meaning that they’ll eat carrion if it’s handy, but they prefer to kill their own fresh food.
You didn’t know you’d be getting this lesson in ornithology today, did you?
The truth is, vultures are amazing birds. They’re immune to anthrax, botulism, gangrene, tetanus, cholera and salmonella. They have incredible eyesight and have been seen to be flying alongside airplanes at 37,000 feet.
What amazing creatures God created! He knew we’d need someone to clean up the world … so he gave us vultures. I know that they are not going to win any beauty pageants and often people are afraid of them, but if we didn’t have vultures, we’d be living in a smelly, disease-ridden, carcass-filled world. Gross, I know, but that’s a fact.
I love watching the vultures riding the air currents around town, and I will be sad when, any day now, they’ll be gone for the winter. We don’t know when that day will be — one day they’ll just be gone.
Believe it or not, I have a perfect theological connection to this idea! I thought of it even before I looked up a verse about vultures. I thought of it and rejected it as something I probably didn’t want to follow through on. What I thought was, “That’s kind of like the second coming of Jesus. We don’t know when it will be. Just one day it will happen.” But then I thought that it’s weird to compare Jesus’ return to vultures. But apparently I wasn’t so off, after all.
And so, I give you Matthew 24:27 and 28:“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”
I keep telling you: the Bible applies to every part of our lives!
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.