I'm pausing in writing about my friends so as to let the well refill and share my thoughts on pigeons.
Six or seven years ago, my niece-cousin Brandi, my son Cade, and I drove to Maryland to visit my college roommate Erin Quigley, and all of us took a day trip to Annapolis Harbor. As we walked and enjoyed sunshine, breezy saltwater air, and boats big and small, I read aloud a sign: "DO NOT FEED THE PIGEONS!!!" I looked around, furrowed my brow, and turned to Quigley. "Huh," I said, "I don't see a pigeon, anywhere."
Without missing a beat, she responded matter-of-factly: "That's because no one feeds them."
In my mind, I traveled back in time to early 1999 and house shopping in Shenandoah. I looked at a house right in the middle of town, liked it very much, and may well have bought it but for the house across the street. The roof of this house--my potential neighbors' house--was covered in pigeons...to the point that there was no roof to be seen. Creepy, Man! Think Addams Family creepy, plus pigeons! And there was no way I wanted to come out my front door, everyday, and look straight into a million beady, little pigeon eyes; feel like I had a hungry audience behind me while carrying groceries into my house; or worry, daily, that a pigeon might fly over--on his way "home"--and poop in my hair. So I left and never looked back.
I spent a little bit of time reading up on pigeons this morning, and I learned some interesting things. For example, 32 pigeons were decorated with the Dickin Medal for their work in war; homing pigeons delivered financial information to the Rothschilde family with such speed that the family rose above their competition in Wall-Street trading; and--to this very day--there is big money in pigeon racing. Pigeons and doves are in the same family: hardy little birds capable of flying over floods with olive branches. Bert (from Sesame Street) has always loved pigeons; I'm not trying to trash them!
Still, where the rubber meets the road, there is the matter of pigeon poop, which carries the bacteria of diseases like salmonella and meningitis. Also the fact that--if you feed a pigeon--he will return with his wife, parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins, and even the friends he met by the park bench once upon a day.
People are the same. If you feed them (not only their bellies, but their spirits), they will return for more, and they may bring others with them. You will have to deal with their crap and possibly the crap of their relatives and friends. Hear what I'm saying: everyone is a sinner, and everyone messes up in your realm, here and there. That's ok. But it is not ok for you to be overtaken by urban pests.
You say, Jesus wants us to care for others. No kidding! Jesus does want us to care for others! But I don't think Jesus wants us to enable those who are physically sound but would stop working in order to squat on our roofs (sometimes with their relatives and friends) while growing to enormous proportions on the food we kill ourselves to provide. Furthermore, Jesus wants us to make the best use of our time for His kingdom. Am I making a statement about the poor or unemployed? Sure, if those people have no good reason for being poor or unemployed. But it's bigger than that, and I might be referring to the wealthiest person you've ever known: the one who calls you constantly and drains your emotional and mental energy and messes with your functionality. If you are spending all your time on a lazy, bacteria-ridden bird, how many more deserving creatures are you overlooking, neglecting? Here's another question: how many would-be loving neighbors are you repelling as you sit there, covered in bird crap?
No one should ever underestimate the importance of examining his or her relationships. Each of us has God-given free will and can--under most circumstances--rid ourselves of pests. If a relationship is toxic, we can end it by starving it. Your "friends" (frenemies?) may be smart and swift (and I can guarantee their hardiness!), but--if they aren't worth the crap they bring to your life--stop feeding them.
Samuel Johnson is famous for writing: "To let friendship die away by negligence and silence is certainly not wise. It is voluntarily to throw away one of the greatest comforts of this weary pilgrimage." Do you know what he wrote just a little after, in the same paragraph? He wrote: "It is pleasing, in the silence of solitude, that there is one at least, however distant, of whose benevolence there is little doubt, and whom there is yet hope of seeing again." Don't be confused: Johnson wasn't referring to a false friend.
So take a deep breath, close your eyes, and think. Inevitably, God will bring someone to your mind. Maybe someone about whom you've heard lovely things, but whom you've never met. Maybe a deserving person in need. Maybe someone kind and good with whom you used to spend time, before you got caught up in bird hell. Call that person up. Bake her a cake. Improve your pilgrimage, my child.