By Veronica Szczygiel, Ph.D
Recently, my neighbor approached my husband Arthur and I, very concerned. In his front yard, between the stoop and the trash cans, a pigeon sojourned for three days and nights. My neighbor fed it seeds, provided a little shoebox shelter, and hoped no rats would attack it.
Knowing we were outdoorsy animal lovers, he asked for our help. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, as a Brooklyn native, pigeons did not top my list of favorite birds. But, I remembered the parable of the Good Samaritan. Would I be like the Levite or priest who simply walked past someone in distress? I sighed, knowing already that the bird would come home with us.
Arthur retrieved an old cat carrier and caught the bird with ease. The pigeon seemed used to being handled by humans. It had a tag on its leg. Perhaps it was like a prodigal son, ready to return home.
A weeklong saga to rehome the lost pigeon ensued. We learned from the identification on its band that it was a racing pigeon. Unfortunately, locating the exact owner would be difficult since thousands of bands are issued from multiple racing clubs each year.
We were advised to release the bird in a nearby park, but when we did, it crashed into the grass instead of flying. So, we decided to cold-call the first person who popped up when we Googled “pigeon racers in Brooklyn.” Thankfully, Mr. Joe Green gladly accepted this little lost one to join his flock of 300 racing pigeons in Brighton Beach.
Arthur and I drove the pigeon to Joe’s home. He gently examined the bird and informed us that it was a female in an overall healthy condition. However, her previous owner had ripped out many of her wing feathers, rendering her unable to fly.
This kind of painful feather removal was not typical of pigeon racers. The good news was that she should regrow these feathers by the new year. Rather than a prodigal son, then, this bird was more like Old Testament Joseph being dumped into the well and sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph rose up to become second to the king in Egypt; so, too, with the proper love and care, would this bird take flight.
And we knew that Joe, a former NYPD cop, would give her the best care she could get. He was an absolutely lovely gentleman with a big smile and an even bigger heart.
For the pigeon, Joe isn’t just a caretaker but a guardian angel. I believe God sends the right people at the right time to renew our trust in Him and to reveal His redemptive grace, even for the littlest creatures.
As a Catholic, I realized that God works within us and other people to heal this broken world. As a New Yorker, I gained a little more respect for the humble pigeon.
Veronica Szczygiel, Ph.D., is the assistant director of online learning of the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University.