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Even a "pesty" pigeon is a spark of life
By L LEONELLI Times Guest Columnist October 28, 2001

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. As 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 wants it.

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 by volunteers.

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.

©The Daily Times 2001