“Fella gets use’ to a place, it’s hard to go,” said Casy. “Fella gets use’ to a way of thinkin’ it’s hard to leave.”
— John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
A flock of pigeons dove down over the crowd, swiftly and precisely, as if to say “Look quickly. We’ll be gone soon.”
Then they were gone.
The crowd was gathered at O’Bryant Square where volunteers were setting up for the weekly Potluck in the Park. The experienced scurried about setting up, while the inexperienced stood about, waiting to be told what to do. My daughters and I were among the latter.
Many people who needed a meal were already gathered around the sides of the square, ticket number in hand, waiting.
Many things need to be done in order to feed 500 people. A routine is needed. Tickets are needed. Cooks are needed and servers are needed. Every menial task must be performed. Everyone has a role or the entire thing falls apart.
Then the gate was opened. The low numbers, those who had been waiting the longest, started to trickle in. Those with a high number would have to wait. Yet, all would be served.
The plastic gloves were donned. The trays of hot food were delivered. The forks and plates were handed out. The hungry trudged through the line slowly. Everything and everyone had a place to be and a role to fill.
As we finished, the pigeons flew over again, swiftly and precisely. Then they were gone.
Our lives are filled with routine. We all have a role to play and a place to be. We all have a rut to stay in or things fall apart and we don’t eat. We all have a way of thinking that we’re use to because it’s easy. It’s easy to look past the hungry and the homeless. It’s easier that way.
But as an experienced volunteer had shouted to us before the gate was opened,
“Be courteous, because we’re here to serve. Remember they are someone’s son or daughter.”
Maybe, just maybe, for a brief moment each day we can stop and look around. Maybe we can see the homeless person with the cardboard sign as we drive by, remembering he is someone’s son. Maybe, we can stop for a second and listen to the street musician banging out a song because she is someone’s daughter. Maybe, we can see a need that we didn’t see before, and fill it.
Maybe we’ll see a flock of pigeons before their gone.
Took my daughters to Potluck in the Park where we served meals to downtown Portland’s homeless community. A community that lives around us everyday like a flock of pigeons, hunting and pecking for the scraps society leaves them. Then flies away and is gone all too quickly.