Last Sunday, after a particularly uplifting church service, I was walking home down the pleasant tree-canopied streets of Tallahassee, when a red shouldered hawk landed on a bird bath not ten feet away from me. We stared at each other. This was highly unusual behavior for a hawk.
“I wonder if I can take a photo?-probably not, he’s sure to fly away when I move.” But no, he sat staring at me as I snapped a couple of photos. I was amazed. He wasn’t sick, he wasn’t frightened. Just then, a bizarre looking young man came up the sidewalk. He was skinny, dressed in a colorful, flouncy shirt, shorts and hiking boots.
“Wanna get high?” he asked in a squeaky voice.” This was one block from cops, one block from the church at high noon in the ‘nice’ part of town. I didn’t care if he was high, that was his business. But I was a little mad at his stupidity. “Look at this hawk,” I said, hoping to share this unusual moment.
“That’s not what I asked you,” he said angrily, refusing to consider the hawk. This additional stupidity made me angrier and I sized up the young man…scrawny, high, about twenty years-old. I’m a fairly fit seventy year-old woman. I decided I could take him. I turned my back on him and he proceeded up the sidewalk. Now, you may think I was being foolish. Perhaps I was. But I grew up holding my own against four brothers and twelve boy cousins. This frail twit didn’t scare me. I had my trusty hiker’s sling bag which I would swing at his blank, unshaven face if he bothered me. He might prevail, but he was going to limp away from that encounter.
As I watched him leave, a whole paragraph of elegant cuss words formed in my mind. I realized that I wasn’t as spiritual as I had thought a few minutes before he came along. The words formed in my mind, but didn’t come out my mouth. Well, that’s a little spiritual progress, at least. But where was the Christian love and compassion for this addict? “I did turn the other cheek to him,” I rationalized. (My arse cheek, that is.) I felt humbled. Then I saw I was proud that I was so humble, and laughed at myself.
This morning I thought of this Monty Python quote and laughed again: