The next five words if they had not made it too long to be a headline, would have been…..to make someone a winner.”
Pardon the nit-pick, but it’s not the time to let a phrase mislead. It should not/must not be allowed to sound ambiguous or suggest an “I give up” attitude. It’s quite possible we are hearing too many conversations of late about “losers.” This will not be another. This is a conversation about a dazzling array or winners I was blessed to encounter in the week just past.
In the face of yet another national tragedy read on if you agree that it is time to seize on small victories and to make that a tiny step to a larger, braver healing and consolation.
The first on a list of “winners” was the pigeon strutting his blue and teal glory on an East 66th Street sidewalk Tuesday morning. I wished it “Good Morning,” and “Thank you for bringing your beauty to a place where you and your breed are not always greeted with positive emotions.” This pigeon was singular. Arguably the most beautiful one I can remember seeing. As it strolled toward Lexington Avenue I was forcibly reminded of the insight of the late John Updike in his moving book Pigeon Feathers.
In that book, the musings of a little boy asked to dispatch the pigeons his parents felt were invaders in the family’s barn. The little boy was trying to make sense of the sad death of a relative and questions about “what is next?” after the death of an elder. Looking at the extraordinary, multi-hued wonder of the fallen birds’ feathers he concluded that there must be something next, something more that simple extinction to honor this bit of creation. He was forced to wonder whether anything so glorious was fated simply to be erased.
As he fell off to sleep the boy posed that puzzle to the Lord whom he was told by his clergyman was the champion and defender of the vulnerable. So, David put his hand outside the covers and asked the Lord, if he was there and if he was such a protector, to touch his outstretched arm telling him that there was more than extinction at the end of the life of creatures. The conclusion of that dialogue was this: “He returned his hands to beneath the covers uncertain if they had been touched or not. For would not Christ’s touch be infinitely gentle.” Any creature that sets off that train of memories is, in my opinion, an unquestioned winner.
Then there was “Flynn.” I was sorry to miss his big win at the conclusion of the iconic Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (Am I the only person who never had a dog who is magnetically drawn to the annual television coverage of this canine Super Bowl?)
On return from the evening meeting that kept me from the real time coverage, news reports showed me a virtual “puff ball” of a Bichon Frisé that had gotten the nod as “Best in Show.” The reporter noted that the decision apparently elicited a moment of surprised silence. Perhaps not surprising as more than one person mentally questioned how a creature so arguable “cute” had also been judged what millennials would likely dub “awesome.” Now mind you, as a short person I would never hold out for tall being a standard for excellence. After all, the Irish Wolfhound wins my heart and my vote every time, at least mentally, since the patent impossibility of its being a part of life in my one-bedroom UES apartment.
But, back to Flynn. As he made appearances on network television and other high visibility destinations that morning, we were reminded that “Cute” and lovable has much less to do with his win than the fact that he is a nearly perfect iteration of the BF breed standards.
Next was a conversation with a young man whose story of a rescue I wanted to share with you. I will not tell that story because more even than its power was his response. Rejecting any sense of heroism, he simply thanked me for my interest and reminded me that the story belonged to the one he considered himself fortunate to have been able to help by being in the right place at the right time.
In a world where the definitions of winning vary wildly I had a glimpse this week of some of the best. Who are the winners? The ones I met in the week just ended remind me that winning is not a matter of overcoming. It is a story of being and becoming. And the rewards? Not just gold medals that can be melted down or trophies that could be dented. Not notoriety that fades with the next news cycle.
The winners to whom I am indebted are the individuals who simply by being, remind us that it is a great achievement to be true to standards that are much wider and deeper than just yourself. A pigeon that in its loveliness brings along a reminder that the simple truth of living your limited moment to its fullness brings a lasting gift to those who observe it. A “top dog” who was honored for being an example of what it means to demonstrate not just who you are but how you demonstrate the power of those who came before you. You tell your world about the best possibilities of your “breed.” A modest young man who demonstrates that the best way to tell your story is to honor the eloquence of another person’s story. To be your own unique story and respect that the other has every right to own a story in which you played a role.
Here’s to the “winners!” May their tribe increase.