Thursday, May 6, 2010

The jailbird and the hummingbird

I was out walking the dog a while ago on my peaceful urban street. I'd noticed two police cars on the street as we walked to the park, and then forgot about them.

But as we sauntered home, I saw a cop leading a guy in handcuffs to one of the cruisers. Neither of them spoke a word.

Without meaning to, I caught a good glimpse of the handcuffed man. He was youngish and white, with a scruffy beard and a baseball cap. Unremarkable looking.

Except for his expression. Fear and regret wrote themselves all over his pale face and wide-open eyes. He looked doomed.

It struck me that I'd never seen anyone get arrested before except on television. It's much more jarring in real life, on a tranquil street, when just a moment before you'd been enjoying a shady park where a grandfather fed his little granddaughter with tender care.

I felt so sad, suddenly, for that guy, even if he had done something bad. So sorry for whatever hard circumstances in his life led to him this humiliating and frightening moment.

Just after the cop car pulled away, a flash of green caught my eye. I saw a hummingbird hovering over a nearby bush. I'd never seen a hummingbird in the neighborhood either. The bird flitted about, shimmering and free.

And suddenly I felt even worse for the poor doomed guy in the cop car, and for all of us who are held by shackles of any kind.

I watched the hummingbird for just a few seconds before it disappeared, upward into the lightening sky.