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A Pigeon Prayer

The meaning of life as seen through a bird on a nest in a blizzard

I am a southerner – which means it is burned into my DNA to get excited about snow. I realize it’s not everyone’s reaction. Most people in New York City roll their eyes and think about things like the sidewalks they will have to shovel, or the trains that will be late. Me? When I hear a forecast for the fluffy white stuff, I shed about fort – well, a few -- years in age and begin to uncontrollably hop up and down.

Such was my reaction yesterday when I heard NYC was going to be hit with a blizzard. A blizzard presents an entirely new level of joy – like hearing a general snow forecast, but after eating fifteen sugar cookies. I rushed to the window to scout out the oncoming storm and could barely contain my excitement until I saw, huddled up in the corner of a window sill of an abandon building next door, a pigeon; her head down against the wind, her feathers fluffed out as much as possible against the cold, sitting on a tiny pile of sticks … a nest.

My heart sank. There was no way to get to her as she was in a third floor window. And there was no way she was leaving that spot.

I spent most of the afternoon peeking out the window at the storm, then checking on the pigeon. She never moved. Finally the daylight faded, the storm came in, and there was nothing anyone could do but say a little pigeon prayer.

I closed the blinds and began to think about the image of that little pigeon fighting through the storm. It was the unmistakable image of the life force at work. We humans tend to dismiss its existence, diluting it with concerns of who will win the Oscar or what Meghan Trainor’s lyrics from “All About that Bass” really mean. We live our lives prioritizing things that don’t matter.

Oh, we try and find answers. The Barnes and Noble shelves are overflowing with books telling us about the meaning of life. Our religious institutions preach about it every week. Yet, here on this window sill, was a tiny creature living it.

It is not what you have, nor what you achieve, but who you care for that matters. For the pigeon, it was her little egg. For us, it is each other.

The tragic headlines we read every day are not just words on a page; they are happening to our brothers and sisters - our neighbors on the streets. We were put on this earth together and we will only survive – together. Our call in life, pure and simple, is to build a nest for those in need and offer our wings as protection from the storm.

The light is just coming up and there is tiny movement in the window. The pigeon has survived the New York blizzard. I light a candle in the window facing her nest; a small act of solidarity, a sign that someone knows she’s there. I then turn to Psalm 57 and read it’s ancient words as a blessing: “Have mercy on me oh God, have mercy. For in you, my soul takes refuge. In the shadow of your wings, I take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.”

About the Author
Susan Sparks

Susan Sparks is a lawyer turned standup comedian and Senior Pastor of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church.

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