Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Pigeon

I live near the railroad tracks here in west Humbolt Park, and every morning as I ride my bike to work, I go under the viaduct by my house. There are frequently things there that would ruin my appetite if I saw them before lunch, but this past Wednesday I saw something that made me think more than usual.

As I rode by, I saw this pathetic old pigeon lying on its back in a shallow puddle, clearly in its death throes. Since numerous pigeons live in the girders under the viaduct, seeing an old or sick one fall from the nest and die is not unusual. It was the death process that was striking with this one.

Nonetheless, I rode on and didn't give it a second thought. I'm not known for my compassion towards pigeons. However, about 14 hours later I walked my dog past the same spot, and there was the pigeon, still struggling for breath. I stood and watched it for awhile, not quite knowing what to do. This viaduct goes over North Avenue, one of the busiest streets in the city. I knew if I showed mercy and killed the poor thing, someone would see me and call the police. Or worse yet, PETA! I felt very sorry for this pigeon, but walked on.

Believe it or not, I rode my bike again the next day, and this thing was STILL ALIVE.

It reminded me of the lives of lots of people here. Always dying but neither fully dead nor fully alive. Christians standing there not sure what to do about it. Pain that seems like it's never going to end. And all the while, the other pigeons - no doubt this poor bird's own family members - were happily feeding nearby, completely oblivious to the plight of the dying bird.

By Thursday evening when I rode back home, it was finally, mercifully dead.

Chicago can be a rough place...