Of Homeless and Hummingbirds

Lately, several homeless neighbors who come to the weekly Homeless Outreach on Saturday mornings have been hanging out in the parking lot after they get their showers and before breakfast starts to enjoy some fresh air. In the interest of building relationships with these men I decided that I would get some fresh air too.

Last Saturday I noticed that Jerry*, one of our homeless neighbors who lives in his late 90’s model Lexus, was pacing methodically in the corner of the parking lot.

“Mind if I walk a few paces with you?” I asked.
“Sure.” Jerry shrugged.

As we walked our circuit we talked about his diabetes, about his interest in science fiction (he reads at least three books each week) and about how he walks these paces each morning “to get the blood flowing.”

After walking and talking for several minutes I noticed what looked like a small green walnut, and after looking closer I realized it was a baby hummingbird that had fallen from it’s nest and was sitting there in the parking lot scared and helpless.

“What should we do?” I asked Jerry.
“Not much we can do. My dad told me once, you can’t save everything.” Jerry responded, as he resumed his pacing.

As I stayed behind looking at this vulnerable bird, I wondered what to do. “He’s probably right.” I thought. Just then, Jaquie pulled into the parking lot. She works for the County as an animal control officer and she came over right away. She picked up the bird and in moments had whisked it away to her home where she would feed it and care for it until she could bring it to a hummingbird rescue the next day. She called me later that week to tell me that she had been successful in getting the little bird a place in the rescue where the staff would feed it every 20 minutes for several days until it was strong enough to survive on it’s own.

When I first started working with our homeless neighbors I was hopeful about our ability to help everyone we met. Then after a few disappointing experiences with neighbors who made “one step forward and three steps back” I noticed that I began to operate with a degree of cynicism. I would like to call this “informed discernment”, but I sometime use the “you can’t save every[one]” line as a rationale for my increasing emotional distance from my neighbors.

That cynicism is challenged each time a new volunteer joins our ranks. Just like Jaquie came and helped me see that we could indeed help the hummingbird, new volunteers come with a new skill sets and new hope that inspire me past my hopelessness.

I realize that while I cannot save everyone, God’s body, with its diverse gifts and ever growing faith can indeed help everyone, even if it is simply to minister hope through relationships.

*name changed