You never know what Tuesday will bring. Today saw me and a total stranger providing first aid to a concussed and bloodied pigeon. The stranger, a small woman in her sixties, held it, cradled in her hands while I used a tissue to clear the congealed blood from its beak and nostrils. The bird simply sat, still and quiescent, in her hands – stunned, perhaps, or in shock, or exhausted, or simply preparing itself for the quiet, gentle reality of its coming death. Either way, it allowed itself to be sheltered in a pair of unfamiliar human hands, and it didn’t flinch when I gently stroked away the thick crimson obstructing its breathing.
It’s not every day you get to be so close to a wild creature, even one as seemingly mundane as a common-or-garden-variety pigeon – although up close, you realise what a miracle of creation it actually is. I steadied its head with one finger and felt the warmth and smoothness of feathers; I looked into dimming eyes and saw a sacred soul.
I am not someone to whom being helped – or being vulnerable, even with those I love the most – comes naturally, and so I am always amazed and humbled at the grace that people and creatures show when they allow others to comfort them. I found myself close to tears thinking about this small being’s willingness to allow humans – usually a source of fear, of danger – to minister to it. To bring solace, and what comfort we could. Perhaps to be with it, in simple presence, in its final minutes.
I was also humbled by the human connection: the simple kindness of this woman to stop and pick up a pigeon – a common, overlooked bird, a pest almost, but nonetheless a beauty, and a miracle, and a soul – and to go out of her way to care for it. “Never mind,” she kept saying to it, as though to a child with a skinned knee. “Never mind, dear, we’ll take care of you”. And for a brief amount of time, two strangers, who would probably do nothing more than nod hello to each other in passing, were united in our focus on the creature and our mutual desire to ease its suffering.
I do not know what happened to the pigeon. I continued on my run; she continued to her car to take it to the emergency vet. I suspect that I witnessed some of the last few moments of the pigeon’s life, although I hope that’s not the case. You can’t stroke the head of a patiently suffering creature without feeling some sense of hope for it, some desire that all will be well. But I am comforted in knowing that, whatever happened, there was a witness. This soul would not have left the world alone. Strong and gentle hands would have cradled it; a compassionate human would have watched it go, and wished it well on its way. And its Source and Creator would have welcomed it.
Such a small moment in the unfolding of the universe. And yet, in the small circle that surrounded me, a stranger and a dying pigeon, the universe was illuminated, and the Sacred was strengthened, and the hands of God were at work.