The Pigeon and Me

By Sergio Hyland, SCI Green

I saw something interesting last night. It was after midnight, and I was outside shoveling snow. In prison, any job you can get that allows you to work outside of “normal” hours and “normal” circumstances, is always a good thing. So as a maintenance worker, I’m usually among those who get the first shot at jobs of that nature (think the “roof job” in the movie Shawshank Redemption).

I enjoy doing snow removal late at night. I find serenity, and some level of inner peace. I find an opportunity to do some deep thinking, without having to worry about the normal hysteria that takes place during the prison’s regular hours of operation. After midnight, I can relax, while still working hard.

It was quiet, and very cold. It didn’t matter much to me, as my mind soon began to focus on what my eye’s peripheral had just caught: something in the snow. It was alive and struggling to move. Too small to be a skunk; too large to be a mouse. I approached with curiosity, and immediately recognized its walk, a very distinct wobble. I’d seen it plenty of times before. It was a wounded pigeon. I couldn’t tell exactly what the nature of its injury was, but it was serious enough to keep it from flying away as I drew closer.

I felt terrible. It was freezing outside. I wanted to help, but the closer I got, the more panicked it became. As it scurried towards the middle of a large field – where I suppose it thought it would be safe – I couldn’t help but to think that me and this pigeon may have more in common that it would appear.

I looked around, nervously, making sure that I was out of the view of my supervisor – who wouldn’t like it too much if he caught me trying to help a bird when I was supposed to be shoveling snow. I wanted to help it. I wanted to pick it up out of the snow and at least place it somewhere warmer. It may have still succumbed to the elements, but I’d feel better knowing that I’d tried. I just wanted to help; because I would want somebody to help me if ever I should find myself in such a precarious situation.

But I couldn’t help. Between the watchful eyes of my supervisor, and the hurried feet of the fowl, I was stuck. So I watched as it ran away from the only person out there who was willing to – or at least really trying – to help it.

More often than not, I feel just like that pigeon. I relate to it in so many ways. Far away from home, alone, in a dark and cold environment, where people don’t usually offer help without strings being attached, I can relate to its helplessness, and its sense of hopelessness. How would YOU feel if you had wings that were meant to fly, but couldn’t?

I don’t blame the bird for not trusting me. After all, I AM human. And humans can be wolves, or they can be foxes. See, the wolf salivates at the very sight of the injured pigeon. And the fox? It smiles at the pigeon, dances with it; it may even pull the bird out of a jam. But at the end of the day, both the wolf and fox aim to make an easy meal out of the injured prey.

So no, I don’t blame that pigeon for running away from me – even though I was only trying to help. I run from help all the time. And for precisely the same reasons. Because when you’re down, and wounded, and alone, the world seems a lot colder, and a lot darker; you start to feel more helpless, more hopeless. Friend mimics foe.

It’s all in my head.

There must be SOMEBODY out there who I can trust.

But who?

Run, pigeon…

Run.