The Work of Community

I saw this bird outside while on a run. I thought it was dead, so naturally I got my face really close to it and laid on the ground to take a ton of photos. Sprawling on the sidewalk is a good way to make people think you’re nuts, by the way. FYI: the bird was sick but not dead. It valiantly kept trying to take chomps out of me whenever it decided I was getting too close.

I felt a twinge of guilt at walking away and leaving it there. Feo wanted to rescue it… we have a history of these things. He and I rescued a wounded pigeon back in Oakland, kept it in a shoebox overnight and drove to a wildlife sanctuary a few towns over. It died, and if I am honest with myself, we probably made its last days more terrifying than they needed to be.

I tell myself that is the reason why I don’t help this bird. In reality, I was just tired and didn’t feel like bothering. The guilt persists.

Being in relationship with others, being part of a community, is a form of bondage. I mean no ill-will through that term. It is an obligation, but often a beautiful one. An Iron & Wine song said it well once, that “Everybody owes something to everybody else.” The more you love, the more you owe.

Well, and I have been trying to be a part of my community. Trying to weave myself into these Hawaiian tapestries. My dad’s church has adopted a few homeless families. A dozen or so men (including my dad) gave up their Saturday to build a fence around a mother’s encampment, so CPS wouldn’t take her children away from her. They bought the materials, drove for an hour, spent the whole day sweating in the sweltering heat for this.

I have nothing but love and gratitude for them. Nothing but abject admiration. I feel humbled by their kindness.

And now we’re at: what can I do? How can I use my strengths to benefit others? Little writer/artist/cook, and what do I do with that? We’ve got to do the work, and it’s not just an exercise in self-aggrandizement. The world needs one of you and one of me. Hands to build the fence and hands to write about it, to tell the story after.

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