A Sign of Joy in a Time of Grief

. June 2, 2017.

He kept coming back. Again and again. A little cardinal, or Ricky Red Bird, as he became known, began appearing around Stacy Lievens’ home after her childhood friend passed away. That’s when Lievens realized the bird was bringing her an important message.

Into the clear beyond

It is often said that birds are a symbol for freedom and perspective. Many people have also associated birds as a spiritual creature as their ability for flight can act as a connection to heaven.

This particular little cardinal had a habit for flying into Lievens’ window, so after some research she learned that there are two primary reasons for birds to fly into windows. First, cardinals fly into windows because they see their reflection and think they are seeing another bird. Second, they believe they are seeing into the clear beyond. “I believe this bird was flying into my window because he saw a friend he wanted to get to, and with my faith I believe he saw a way to the beyond,” Lievens said.

After talking about the bird with her family, her brother suggested using Ricky Red Bird as an inspiration for a children’s book. “My brother planted this seed in my brain and I often teach about virtue to my children, and so I thought a book of virtue would be nice to share with the world…and I thought this would be a beautiful tribute for my friend.”

Instant friendship

With the idea of a children’s book in mind, Lievens realized that her stick figure drawings were not going to cut it for her book’s illustrations. Remembering that her childhood friend’s family had a beautiful mural in their home, she decided to give them a call to see if they knew the artist of the painting. She found that the mural was painted by local artist Carol Sicha.

When Lievens shared her story with Sicha, the two became instant friends. Initially the book was going to define 13 different virtues, but after seeing Sicha’s illustrations Lievens decided she wanted to write a narrative story that used rhyme. What resulted is a beautifully written and illustrated children’s book for all ages.

Ricky Red Bird: A Lesson in Virtue shows children that by leading a life of virtue, they can accomplish amazing things. The story is based on real events of faith and friendship all while focusing on virtues such as perseverance, faith, prudence, generosity, respect for life, patience, magnificence, affability, humility, prayerfulness and love.

Leading by example

Keeping with the idea of virtue, Lievens and Sicha are donating all proceeds to the Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund (NOSF). NOSF was founded in 1999 by local volunteers to help children from kindergarten through eighth grade in Northwest Ohio better afford educational opportunities by providing scholarships. Over the course of its 18 years in existence, this organization has awarded more than $12 million in scholarships.

Both Lievens and Sicha have been traveling to many of the schools that have received NOSF scholarships to share their story and teach children to “set their dreams high.” This book not only created a beautiful tribute, but a true act of virtue.

“Something that was such a deep sadness turned into this story of great joy,” Lievens said.

Ricky Red Bird: A Lesson in Virtue can be ordered online at nosf.org/news-and-events.

Q&A with Stacy Lievens

What’s your favorite activity to do with your family?
Anything outdoors!
Best holiday memory from when you were a kid?
Stringing popcorn for our Christmas tree! We all complained about it. My brothers despised it, but I loved that my mom made us do it every year!
What’s your go-to activity when you have a few minutes to yourself?
Name one thing you swore you’d never do as a mom but totally do.
Wiping my kiddos’ dirty faces with the kitchen dish rag.
Describe your life in five words.
Loving God and my family.

Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund
What is it? NOSF is a local organization that provides scholarships for low-income students so that they can afford quality education.
Who can apply? Kindergarten through eighth grade students located in Northwest Ohio can apply for the scholarships.
How can I learn more? Visit nosf.org/about-us and complete the form to donate, learn more, or have an application sent to you.