Friday, 20 November 2009


The grey squirrel has had a bad press. It's condemned as a vermin -like a rat with a bushy tail. Worse still, it's accused of being a foreigner, which has driven out our beautiful native red squirrel. Few people have a kind word to say for the grey squirrel.

And yet most of us love to see them in our gardens or parks. I was recently able to take the present picture in a beautiful avenue in Leicester. Whenever I tried to draw near to take its photo it played hide and seek with me, as it ran round the back of a tree. I got the feeling the squirrel enjoyed the game as much as I did!

As you can see from the colour of the leaves, it was autumn. At that time of the year the grey squirrel is especially busy gathering and burying nuts and acorns. These will provide it with food for the winter. Fortunately for us it doesn't find all its buried food. What remains hidden is able to grow into oak, beech and hazel trees. So the despised squirrel plays a useful part in the spread of our trees. And it's a fascinating, skilled acrobat, which can defeat the most difficult of obstacle courses in its attempt to reach food. It can run paw over paw, upside down along a washing line, and can make prodigious leaps and open food containers.
There is indeed much to admire in the despised grey squirrel, which only does what comes naturally, without any malice. I suspect that is true of all the beasts we dismiss as being evil, including wasps and snakes. If we did but know it, each one of them plays its part in the balance of nature, even if that's mainly to provide food for other animals. But much more important, in different ways each creature gives glory to God, simply being itself.

My reflections on the grey squirrel have led me to conclude that I can find much that is very positive in an animal we have come to despise. If that's true for me with my limited perspective and all my prejudices God is infinitely better at seeing the whole picture when he considers us. He sees not only our failures and faults, but also our successes and the difficulties we have had to face. God takes into account what other people fail to notice.

Reflecting on the despised grey squirrel and finding good in it has taught me to try to be equally generous with people, whom I may too readily shun or condemn. If I can look for what is good in them I will realise that they are God's children, made in his image and likeness. They are my brothers and sisters. If I'm open to them, each will provide a new and unique way for me to meet God in them.

Thinking about the grey squirrel has taught me to try and overcome my prejudices. These certainly blind me from seeing what is good in people and prevent me from meeting God in them.

I'm grateful to the grey squirrel for the way it has helped me and for the joy it has given me. I don't see it as my foe, even if it may be that for the red squirrel, which also gives me great joy. Each has it's place in the glory of God's creation.

Isidore O.P.

Next week Peter will reflect on Sending Christmas Cards

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