Nearby to my home lives a homeless woman. We sometimes call her the pigeon lady. She doesn’t look like a pigeon though. It’s more to do with the groups of pigeons always around her – I guess she likes their company. Her real name is Juliette.
She had a public housing flat but filled it with too many things and didn’t clean it, everything from the neighbourhood made it’s way in there. We could see from the outside window, piles stacked to the roof. The neighbours spoke to me about the mice and the smell. Juliette is a hoarder. I wonder about her story.
Not able to give up her lifestyle of excess she now lives under the bridge of traffic, with a shopping trolley, a bed and neatly tucked belongings a few meters wide that seem to shrink and grow. I try and bring perspective to this situation. Maybe she was very rich in a past life and needed lots of possessions, yet took everything for granted so this was a way for her to learn…
This week Juliette had a new bird; a baby bird perched on her shopping trolley. Black and white with ruffled feathers – it looks very much like a magpie to me.
I say, “Hi, is your bird hurt?” “No” she says in a whisper. “I’m feeding it, someone has to look after it you know? Otherwise it will die. It’s a messy job as you can see. Do you have any meat? My bird needs fresh meat.” She sees me with my dog. Having some meat at home is a clever assumption.
Later in the day I bring a portion of meat wrapped in plastic on my way to the park with my dog. She’s not there so I leave it on her covered pile of belongings. The pigeons are circling.
On my way back she’s there with her bird. “Hi Juliette I left you some fresh meat!” “Oh” she says, “that was you. I thought it was Dave from around the corner. My bird needs more. That’s not enough – he eats half a cup! Next time can you bring him more? He needs more meat!“
I’m wondering if that’s a tea cup or mug she’s referring to. With all the dog owners around here, that’s going to be one fat bird.
My small gesture of kindness had now turned into an expectation of more. She was a homeless lady so I guess it could be anticipated. I’ve encountered this many times though on different levels with people who should know better – we all have and it makes me withdraw.
This got me thinking to lessons in life. How important it is to be gracious for the small things in life, to say thank you and not expect more. I thank Juliette for the small lesson she highlighted to me.
Teachers arrive in many forms and today’s lesson was one in gratitude – to be thankful for the small things in life. This is how we can ultimately receive more and grow.