The Vincentian Hummingbirds

by | Feb 4, 2019 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

A fable tells us that there was a raging forest fire. Several animals managed to escape the fire, finding refuge in safe areas. Other animals  rushed to tell their friends that the fire had begun; they asked for help, but they did nothing to extinguish the fire. A small hummingbird, however, began to perform a task: with its small beak, it collected water from a nearby pond and flew towards the center of the flames, throwing the small drop over the flame … the hummingbird did this again and again.

The anteater, observing the scene, said to the hummingbird: “Don’t you see that all your effort is useless? The drops of water cannot contain this fire!” Outraged, the little bird answered: “I am doing my part, I offer my help. If everyone did the same, we could have extinguished the fire a long time ago.” The response of the hummingbird fell on the anteater and other animals of the forest, who began to bring water from the lake to the flames, thus managing to extinguish the fire, which had already caused much damage in the forest.

The fable of the hummingbird and the fire is similar to the work that is being carried out in the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Like hummingbirds, the Vincentians bring their droplets of water to the homes of the families who are helped and assisted by the members. Their drop of water could be the basic food basket or the voucher that can be exchanged for food, medicines, school supplies for children, shoes, blankets to keep warm, etc.

At times, the Vincentian drop of water is so important for these families that it becomes a true font that alleviates the most urgent and immediate needs, such as hunger, illness, unemployment and disillusionment with life. Since there are almost 50,000 conferences around the world, we can guarantee that the drops of water become a true river of charity that flows outward and touches the most disadvantaged.

The main drop of water that the Vincentians leave in the homes of the people they serve is the Word of God. Every prayer, every reading of the Gospel, every word of encouragement to participate in the sacraments … these are small drops that will surely extinguish the fire of despair and save the lost hearts. The spiritual nature of the actions developed by conferences around the world makes the Society of St. Vincent de Paul an organization concerned about the religious as well as the material development of their excluded brothers and sisters.

Returning to the fable: the Vincentians take the place of the hummingbird, but we can also say that there are many people who flee from their responsibility to make a better world, and are unwilling to share their wealth with those who suffer. We can compare these people with the animals that flee the fire without doing anything to extinguish it. There are also people who talk and talk and talk, but do nothing. They tend to be concerned about political issues or self-promotion, they cry out against injustice, but are unwilling to get their hands dirty in order to transform unjust structures. They can be compared to the forest animals that tell the other animals that there is a fire.

The Vincentian hummingbirds can be found everywhere, discreet and anonymous, doing their part so that the message of Christ can reach the hearts of all, thus bringing relief to their present situation and helping these children of God to live a dignified manner and in accord with the demands of the gospel.

Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th General President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul


1 Comment

  1. Cindy Lytle

    Beautiful. I don’t think there could be a clearer or poignant analogy.