What Do We “Owe” Our Neighbors, Great & Small?

This past Sunday I tried avoiding responsibility.

I was walking to brunch with my wife & mother-in-law, and it happened I was on the opposite side of Ninth Avenue. Out of the corner of my eye I saw what appeared to be a pigeon, perhaps with a broken wing, flutter a few feet and land in the middle of the avenue. I thought its demise was going to be moments away and thought “oh dear… at least it won’t suffer very long.” But there wasn’t enough traffic and a woman walking her dog picked it up, and it flapped away over to the curb. By now my wife & mother-in-law had crossed the street and my wife asked me what was going on. I was ready to walk away and go get brunch, wanting to assume the dog-owner would take care of the situation, but sometimes my wife serves as my moral compass. I told her a pigeon appeared to be injured, and started calling information on my cell phone to get the number for the Wild Bird Fund rescue organization, in order to pass the situation off on someone else.

My wife said, “Let’s go see what we can do, if anything.” Visually, I couldn’t make sense of what I saw. It looked like an extra long two-tone pigeon. It seemed stretched out, and the dog-owner said, “These two pigeons seem to be stuck together,” and sure enough, when I squatted down and assessed the situation (at my wife’s encouragement), there was a gray pigeon and a beige pigeon joined together foot to foot. I saw the two feet joined in a small tangle of thin thread. I tried pulling the thread apart with my hands. Nope. I looked up to see 8 to 12 people gathered around observing. Spontaneously I called out “Does anyone have a knife, or something I can cut with?” Some guy said yes, and while he got it out I pulled at the threads to get a clearer working space. The beige pigeon was flapping her wings a bit and another woman from the crowd stepped forward and gently cupped it, to keep her still. The guy handed me the knife (a switchblade, incidentally!) and I cut the tangle apart. The woman holding the beige pigeon stood up with the bird in her hands and asked, “What should I do?” I told her to put the bird down on the curb. The bird happily flew away. My wife told me later on the small crowd applauded as the bird took off, but I didn’t hear it at the time. Unfortunately, the grey pigeon appeared to have a broken neck, and was dead. I assumed when they had been co-joined and trying to fly about, somehow the grey one got injured. So I wrapped it in a bag I found in the corner wastebasket and “buried” it there, walked off the brunch and scrubbed my hands thoroughly before I ate.

This incident stayed with me. I am not retelling this to paint myself as any kind of a hero, because I wasn’t. I was ready to walk away, even though I kinda felt I “should” get involved. I started thinking about having to keep the bird until a shelter opened on Monday… about the delay to eat… about how hassled and inconvenienced I thought I would be… but my wife pointed me back in the direction I needed to go…. and so at least one bird was saved. That was sweet.

And all that hassle & inconvenience I anticipated? Well whaddya know, a helpful crowd formed around the incident and assisted me. (Man, that guy had a switchblade!) So it was all actually pretty easy! Took 5 minutes tops. I spent too much time thinking negatively.

I believe in following my bliss. I believe I need to take care of myself, to be able to serve the universe. And I also believe the universe sometimes taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, you can take care of this.” And I believe that, because I believe the universe takes care of me all the time, and since I believe we are all “one with the universe,” sometimes we get little assignments to do. And it is our responsibility to do them.

As Teddy Roosevelt once said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
SPECIAL NOTE: The Practical Mysticism Expo is coming on Sunday March 27, 2011 • 12noon-5pm • One on One NYC, 34 W27th St., NY, NY • 11th Floor • $10 entry fee includes access to all 4 lectures • Individual Sessions Available for an extra fee, including tarot/angel card readings, psychic readings, mediumship, palm readings. This expo was created by several gifted friends & myself. More details will follow at www.practicalmysticismexpo.com


  1. Suzanne says:

    Just came across your post as I am trying to catch up on my email messages. Thank you for relating this story. I somehow knew from the beginning you would not turn away and refuse to help. I experienced your feelings as you explained your reticence and the capitulation to your innate kindness, with a bit of urging from Celeste. Warm, fuzzy appreciation for both of you.

  2. What a delightful and uplifting story Tony. I enjoyed reading about your resistance and then your giving in to being compassionate, patient and kind. So moving.

  3. A thought-provoking piece about a considerable spiritual dilemma. There is so much pain and need in the world today, it’s often hard to remain open to recieving it, for then one might wind up giving away all material possessions and living like Jesus. I like that quote– As Teddy Roosevelt once said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Donna Cunningham

    1. I am honored to have Donna Cunningham comment on my blog… thanks. I have learned much from you over the years.

  4. Time to read the Book of Job, I guess. I never have – so far. Heard the guy got dealt a bad hand.
    Last night I listened to an interview with a man in Africa who was captured at age 12 and forced to be a soldier. He told how when one of his friends had been brought back to camp after escaping, he’d been forced to hack him to death with a machete. There was more, much more. He escaped after three years. He lives with himself, somehow. He has nightmares and prays. He loves his life. Still. At the end he sent a message to those boys who are still fighting there as I write, to try and escape and come home because they are still loved and life is worth living.
    I find the courage of my fellow human beings humbling and ennobling.

    1. wow… thanks Luna…

  5. This is my first time here. I really enjoyed your story and love and look out for pigeons, sparrows, all kinds of birds and animals.

    I’m certain that the bird kingdom is very appreciative of you :).

  6. I read your piece and thought that you did the right thing, and was glad that you did and learned a lesson in not thinking negatively, a lesson that you’ll – and most of us – have to relearn time and again throughout our lives.

    But one quibble, the philosophy or belief that the Universe will take “care of us” or that “things happen for a reason” is generally held by those who been treated kindly by life on the whole, or who are very young, or very religious.

    You mentioned walking, a wife, and brunch. That means you aren’t crippled, you have at least one person who loves you, and were on the way to brunch – which suggests enough money to be able to afford brunch. NYC is the place I would imagine this happening and if so, definitely a good bit of disposable income. If not NYC with its plethora of wonderful (and expensive) brunch locations, then another city, but the reasoning still stands.

    I don’t hold that belief – and I know that your response will probably be 1) I had it very rough and overcame it when… or 2) even if I had it really rough and life hadn’t been essentially kind to me, I’d still think this way.

    You can’t know that. Imagine not being able to walk, having to go through surgery and after surgery; having no one – many people have no one – being abandoned to boarding schools as a 7 year old and finding them to be dumping grounds for abused children; imagine being abused and growing up and still being able to get your degree and an advanced professional degree, but still alone and scarred from all you’d been though – imagine the numerous surgeries to tend to a leg/knee/back/hip severely damaged when you were a child in one of those dumping grounds, perhaps a “teacher” picked you up and through your small body into a wall, breaking it.

    And imagine you reach your late 30’s or early 40s and can’t have children due to someone done to you when you were a child or a teen. And you don’t have family because you never had them and they never wanted you – “probably was a bad kid” most might say. Really, at birth? Rather than bad, inconvenient – if you don’t win the birth lottery and your parents divorce when you’re very small, and aren’t the very best of people to begin with – selfish people – who then remarry and agree to their new spouse’s demands to “get rid” of that loose end, the child of a former marriage that should never have been (the marriage, not the child, or maybe both?) — you are ALWAYS alone.

    Hmmm, does the universe REALLY take care of us and give us “assignments”?

    “Here’s your assignment”, says the Universe, accept abuse, pain, more abuse, be alone, and survive anyway only to be kicked every time you try to take a step – and then go and read the happy stylings of someone who can walk while you are pending your.. 5th? surgery, cannot walk to brunch or anywhere else, no one to walk with, because people are VERY judgmental (he/she must have done SOMETHING to deserve it) or use you as a feel-good aid “At least I don’t have as bad he he/she does” – and with that view they can never be your friend, as friendship requires equality, not pity.

    And then go through the holidays alone. Maybe get married and experience what it’s like to not be alone but then lose that person to a very young other person on the internet who doesn’t have health issues or a past that has scarred, who is fresh and bright and clean and 16 years younger than your spouse – “Is this a test too?” you ask the Universe? Since now you are again COMPLETELY ALONE.

    Completely alone, facing surgeries, with no one to hold you, no one to care but hey, the Universe takes CARE OF US, if we do our assignments.

    Hmmmm, easy to dismiss this all, easy to sit back after brunch, warm and full and happy with the LEISURE to think about pigeons and moral compasses and how you didn’t fail your assignment because of your wonderful loving wife.

    It’s easy to formulate that philosophy when you are you – with your life. Easy to dismiss others as not worthy or as not having tried hard enough or as not having trusted – and that would, frankly, be bullsh**. (sorry, but no other word really fits)

    It’s easy to endure minor or even major difficulties with all of this in place because you have never known real hunger or real alone-ness or constant fear of pain or death, never had no-one to turn to, no one at all. Never strived EVEN with all of that and obtained your degrees and credentials only for what? More surgery, more aloneness, your existence a mere cautionary tale or illustration of what it’s like to have it very hard.

    And what will you do with this post? Read it perhaps and thank the Universe that you’re worthy? Or lucky? Or thank “God” for not having “tested” you in this way?

    Maybe some or all of the above, but in the silences in between you’ll really be thinking how glad you are that you were lucky and the world is a shiny happy place where you can stroll down the street and and go to lunch with your moral compass loving wife and feel good about yourself because you helped a pigeon.

    Would that it could be so very, very, obscenely easy for all of us – sure, I’d feel good about helping a pigeon out, and I would do it. Not because of anyone ELSE’S gentle nudging but because those who have genuinely paid in blood either become abusers or become again, obscenely sensitive to the pain of others, humans or animals (animals are generally the superior of the two – they don’t cause intentional pain or make up philosophies to suit an easy life).

    Not a nice post, this one.

    But an honest one without the “feel-good” everything is well… “belief”

  7. Thanks for sharing this, Tony. And love to your wife.

  8. carl picco says:

    Thanks for doing what you did and heeding the nudge from the Universe that came from Celeste’s mouth. BTW (and this is just my guess as I wasn’t there) that “switchblade” was more likely one of a new class of pocket knives that are called “assisted opening” knives. They are easier to open with 1 hand because of the “assist”. You 1st must start opening the knife and then at a certain point the assist completes the opening & securely engaging the knife’s locking mechanism. It’s actually safer. It sounds like a switchblade and does allow for a rapid access to the open knife, which may sound a bit scary but if you need the tool/knife and your other hand busy holding something (like what you need to cut) it is very useful. Also useful if your fingers aren’t as nimble or strong to be able to open a knife w/just one hand it’s good. Think of the many injured vets & workers who may have lost a hand or control. I’m sure some nasty people will use it to their advantage too but that seems true of everything.

    1. more fun pretending it was a switchblade…

      1. carl picco says:



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *