Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Of men and pigeons.

In my neighborhood, about 4 blocks from my home there is a 7-11. In the space of these four blocks my area changes from wealthy and white to a much more mixed neighborhood. Mixed in terms of racial and socio-economic terms. The 7-11 is usually patrolled by a crew of 10-15 guys looking for day work, or looking for a wall against which to lean while they watch women and the hours pass them by. On the front of the 7-11 is a sign that informs these men,in Spanish and English, that they are not to loiter. But they do, and from what I can gather no one really cares. None of the ever evolving cast seems terribly inclined to do much more than hang out there and chat about the day and the days gone by.

This 7-11 is right next to what the neighbors seem willing to pretend is a park. A more fair description might be an area of grass surrounded by a fence. But park is more appealling, and requires few keystrokes and words, so a park it is. It's safe to say the men who hang around outside the 7-11 have severely limited means. But it's rare to see one of them without a loaf of bread. The bread is never for their consumption, rather it's torn and tossed to the birds. A mighy flock or phalanx of birds pass their day in the park. These men with little of their own buy bread and corn meal to feed the birds.

Something about this situation struck me as poetic on the bus ride this morning. Here are men with little control over their world. They congregate in a single place to reduce the isolation of too much time, too little structure and far too little control. By seeking a spot and one another they enforce their will on the world in a small but no doubt meaningful way. Similarly using some of their limited income to help another creature must reclaim what all men want--a sense of being able to serve the world. They may or may not receive aid from the government or charities, I have no idea. But I imagine that from time to time each man has needed the aid and comfort and support of strangers to get by. And to be able to afford to give that aid and comfort and help to another, even if it's a lowly pigeon must be freeing. Like the pigeons these men congregate and cluster only to be deemed a nuissance and scattered around, with little concern for their well being, for their needs. I imagine, there is an appeal to being able to provide for another, to care for something else. I may not have much, I can imagine the monologue going, but I can help these birds. I'm able to control this. I'm able to bring order and aid into the life of this creature. I think that power, that control, that agency must be an innate human desire. It's why I'm glad there's a little park by the 7-11. Everyone deserves the right to repay the aid they've been given. Everyone deserves the right to feel like they have something to offer another in this world.

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