The Pigeon Buffet

Every morning on my way to work, there’s a stretch of Beach Boulevard that draws birds from miles. These winged creatures, mostly pigeons, find the wide swath of grass that is littered daily with what looks like many loaves of bread. The birds are clearly in heaven.

This morning, the bread hadn’t been put out for them yet, but the birds were ready; they lined telephone wires directly overhead, waiting for their feast to be displayed.

I know pigeons don’t have the best reputation, but I’m a fan of most birds — pigeons included. I had a finch or two when I was growing up, and my roommates and I shared a parakeet named Emma in college. Late spring brings many a young crow to my front yard; they enjoy hopping around on the freshly watered lawn as their parents call out to them, cawing and urging them to take flight. My bird feeder in the backyard brings mostly chipping sparrows and mourning doves; the flowers attract hummingbirds.

I smiled this morning when I passed the pigeons as they waited for their breakfast. I was still smiling when I reached the red light a number of blocks down; I was the first car in my lane when I stopped.

Watching the traffic signals cycle through, I noticed as our left turn arrow was about to turn green that there was a terribly disheveled homeless man who had just stepped into the crosswalk in front of my lanes. I knew there was no way he’d make it in time, and apparently others saw the same thing and reached the same conclusion.

We all sat and waited. Nobody honked, not even cars behind us. We just sat patiently, the same way the pigeons half a mile earlier waited for their food. Only this man likely wasn’t crossing the street for a meal — he was simply making his way. Slowly. To where, God only knows.

His shirt was filthy, and only half tucked in; it was a long-sleeved dress shirt, royal blue in color. He had been in the sun far too much, and his shirt was striking against his brown skin. His jeans looked almost black with dirt; his shoes were untied, his hair and beard scraggly. He had a blank look on his face.

Only a few cars had a chance to get through the light before it turned red, but I was amazed at the patience and apparent understanding that was on display this morning. He needed to get somewhere, and far be it from us to rush him; our lives could be put on hold for a few more moments. I’m sure we all hoped there would be a bed, food or some comforting assistance for him when he ultimately arrived at his destination. The pigeons were clearly well taken care of, and I prayed that this man would be, too.

Tonight I am thankful for the patience of fellow motorists, and for the stark contrast of well-fed pigeons and a homeless man simply trying to cross the street. It wasn’t the most optimistic sight to see first thing, but it was a good reminder that there are so many who are less fortunate, who can use a helping hand and that anything we’re able to do — pray, donate to an organization or volunteer — is better than doing nothing at all.

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