A bird of comfort

Published Oct 16, 2013 at 11:34 am (Updated Oct 16, 2013 at 11:34 am)

A simple act of kindness can be a reassuring word, a small pat on the arm or a gesture to make another feel better about themselves or the world in general.

The news is filled with stories about haggling politicians, or hundreds dead in a war zone or the uncertainty of Obamacare. Life can be depressing unless there is a Tom Parker nearby.

The 79-year-old resident of Friendship Village in Upper St. Clair carves small wooden birds that fit in the palm of the hand. These simple creations, which take a few hours to make, can, and do, bring hours of joy and comfort to those fortunate to receive one.

The birds don’t require batteries. They have no moving parts that break or require a manual to operate. The birds do absolutely nothing. Yet, somehow, when held, they bring peace. While Parker also carves other animals, the wren-sized bird without painted details brings the most comfort to those in need.

He gives most to residents in the Friendship Village health care center. Just a small gesture to brighten a day for someone facing an uncertain future at the end of life.

Because Parker works with the natural grain of the wood before sanding and staining, each bird is different thanks to the hand carving. Parker works in any number of woods from oak to cherry to walnut and pine.

He asks for no money, just a smile and a simple thank you will do.

Is he the Birdman of Friendship Village? Not really. Parker is just a retired mechanical engineer, who decided to brighten a few lives by using his hands to carve.

He will never become famous for creating his comfort birds. His name will likely never appear as the lead story on CNN. Amassing a fortune is not in his future. Yet, Parker is making a difference in a few lives. Sometimes, that is the most important contribution anyone can make in the world.

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