Recently, Rick was trimming a vine around our patio cover and accidentally dislodged a bird's nest with two blue speckled eggs. He brought it to me to see if I thought our grandkids would like to have it. Instead of experiencing pleasure at seeing a beautifully crafted nest, I was distressed. "Oh, that poor mama bird!," I immediately cried. "She's probably frantically searching for her babies!"

Rick's puzzled look brought me up short. "I guess I've seen too many Disney movies," I said with a laugh. "I'm acting like the bird has human emotions." Even though it was silly, I got a poignant feeling every time I looked at the nest.

Later that week I babysat my grandkids, who are on a strict gluten- and dairy-free diet, and it's hard to find anything decent to eat. I rummaged through the cupboard for lunch fixings and came across a cereal box featuring a cute gorilla. The back of the box featured the story of endangered East African mountain gorillas, and ended with a plea for "sponsorship of a gorilla."

It reminded me of an experience I had at Christmas. Late one night, I was channel surfing while wrapping presents. I normally skip commercials, but on one station, the lovely sounds of Silent Night began playing, and pictures of abandoned dogs and cats filled the screen. A famous singer, her voice thick with emotion, pleaded with viewers to "sponsor" these helpless, abandoned animals with a monthly donation. I felt tears forming as my emotions reacted to the seeming pleas for help in the big, beautiful eyes of these animals. Our family dog had died not too long ago, and I saw her reflected in the faces of the puppies. They had me.

Almost as quickly, I was outraged. Some really sharp people had copied a page from the playbook of relief ...

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