This morning as I was practicing Tae Kwon Do by the river a man came up to me and gestured to the nearby tree. "There is a crow's nest up there. You are causing them stress."
I felt bad at the idea of causing the crows stress. I don't want to be causing anyone (animals included) stress, so I moved away from it to give the crows a little more space. I would like to say that I did so with no curiosity as to how that man knew I was causing them stress, how he knew there were actually crows in the nest (I knew there was a nest because I had heard sound coming from it a few weeks ago, but had heard nothing recently), wondering if he would have said the same thing to me if I were a different person, and wondering about all the other loud things that occur on the river (such as children playing baseball in the same place).
It made me think about what happens when someone throws something at you that challenges what you are doing or suggests you should do otherwise. I think it takes a lot of flexibility and self control to be able to immediately go with it. And I think also a lot of courtesy, which happens to be one of the aims to achieve in Tae Kwon Do. It was an opportunity for me to reflect on courtesy. Of course I want to show the crows courtesy, even if the life of a crow is going to have far more danger and stress than me kihoping harmlessly below their nest. Perhaps I can give them an easygoing start as this thoughtful gentleman had envisioned for them. It can be hard to balance courtesy and the right to do as one wishes. And it can be hard to trust the source and motivation of the suggestion. But to extend courtesy at the suggestion is a skill worthy of cultivating.
So from now on, I will move to a new place. I don't know if the crows are in their nest, if they are stressed about me being there any more than having baseball coaches shout and children yell, if that man was just exercising whatever power he felt he could, or if he was an ornithologist. None of it really matters. If it is possible to reduce some suffering (be it the crow's or the man's as he takes on their stress vicariously) I'm happy to do it.