|By L LEONELLI Times Guest Columnist
In my metal chariot in a long line of metal chariots, all of us waiting
for the red light to turn green, I noticed the pigeon on the side of the
road. I wondered how I came to focus on him. He was gray, the pavement
and wall behind him were gray, and the sky, gray. Yet, I noticed.
I thought his behavior and location odd for a pigeon. He was
in the middle of the sidewalk squatting on his stomach and all alone. I
had never seen a pigeon all alone. As I pondered his predicament, the brake
lights went off on the car in front of me and my procession to work continued.
I passed the pigeon, I noticed a blue tag on his right leg. Was he a messenger
pigeon? Where was his destination? Where had he come from?
My thoughts went back to the heart-wrenching tragedy of Sept. 11
in our country ... of the loss of precious life. How the battle between
evil and good, once again, must be fought. I, like all Americans, felt
wounded by this unspeakable carnage and was consumed by the images. The
car radio talk shows were buzzing with commentary, solutions and retaliation.
Arriving at work the conversations of my co-workers consisted solely of
the attack on America.
As I worked, every now and again, the lonely pigeon would cross my
mind. I even found myself talking about this "messenger pigeon" I had
seen. My co-worker, grateful to take his mind off of terrorist attacks
for a few minutes, informed me that the tag on the leg did not represent
a messenger pigeon but a "racing" pigeon. He went on to explain that
pigeons have a "homing" instinct. They will aways try to fly home. Some
find it sporting to drive these pigeons very far away, sometimes hundreds
of miles, to place bets on which pigeon will return home first. That pigeon
is, of course, the winner. If the pigeon doesn't win, the "owner" no longer
My co-worker said what I witnessed was probably a very exhausted
pigeon. He went on to explain that they sometimes fly for days, non-stop,
without food or rest to satisfy their homing instinct. How cruel! Is there
no end to man's greed that he would make money off the back of an innocent
animal following her instinct? But of course, isn't that the way it's always
been - the greedy exploiting the innocent for profit?
I thought of pigeons in general... I would say, right along with squirrels,
pigeons were considered to be "pesty." I concluded it is because there
are so many of them. We all seem to value what is rare. Then I thought
about tales I used to hear from my father about messenger pigeons during
World War I, and how many lives they saved by getting valuable information
over enemy lines. I also kind of remember hearing that pigeons were such
good mothers, that most people will never in their lifetime see a baby
pigeon. Think about it.
Why was this "insignificant" bird weaving its image through the tapestry
of my mind? I also felt a "tugging" inside, sort of a need to rescue. How
could I be thinking about a pigeon after what just happened in New York,
Washington, D.C., and my home state of Pennsylvania? How could anything
else be taking priority over my thoughts? It had only been nine days since
the attacks. What kind of person am I? I said a silent prayer for all the
victims and all of the people who loved them.
On the way home in the gray rain, I noticed the pigeon. He was still
there, all alone, and rained on. Too tired to fly. On the gray pavement,
next to the gray wall on this gray day ... was the gray pigeon. He didn't
move. He merely blinked his eyes. And then it came to me. He wasn't part
of the pavement or the wall, he wasn't made of cement. He was a little
spark of life. He, too, was a victim of wrongdoing. He, too, had the will
to live. He, too, had no control over what would become of him.
Maybe he reminded me of the yearning of the passengers on the planes
who ultimately wanted to fly home again. Two legs, four legs, or wings...
a victim still.
As I bent over and clutched him in my hands, he did not struggle.
He came willingly, even gratefully. I could feel his small heart beating
fast as I transferred him to a box I had in the trunk of my chariot. I
drove him to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab Center where he was welcomed
Some people do not discriminate. He was diagnosed as emaciated
and extremely weak. His crop was empty, he was nothing but feathers
and surely would have died on the gray pavement. He was tube-fed and
warmed. He will be given shelter until he is able to fly away (it
is a boy). I felt a sense of relief that this little spark of life,
alone on the side of the road, insignificant and unnoticed by most, would
suffer no more.
In a sense, his rescue became symbolic of something much bigger.
It was a small battle of evil vs. good - won. Triumph of life over death.
Evil always claims victims ....
A tiny spark of life left to glow. I believe it was the act of the
rescue itself that gave me a little bit back of what was taken away from
us Sept. 11, 2001, when the very epitome of evil stole away so much
good, and evil seemed to have won.
From this day forward, I will always practice small acts of kindness
and mercy whenever I am given the opportunity. After all, it is kindness
that empowers us, and kindness that opposes evil.
L. Leonelli is a resident of Hauertown.