by Father Mark Goldasich
What the heck?
Those were the first words out of my mouth as I got ready to go to bed on Aug. 31. I was locking my front door when I looked outside to see what looked like trash on my front lawn. What the heck? My confusion and irritation evaporated, though, as soon as I turned on the outside light to get a better view. What I thought was trash turned out to be birds — flamingos, to be precise — and there were 15 of them, enjoying my lawn in all their pink, plastic glory.
In a nutshell, I’d just been flocked!
Since Aug. 1, Tonganoxie has experienced a flamingo infestation. But it’s OK, there’s no reason to panic. After all, residents have been warned repeatedly to beware of the flock.
The flamingos are a fundraiser for Team Tongie, which was started in March 2009 after two local high school students battled serious medical issues and a third unexpectedly passed away due to a health issue. As its website states, Team Tongie “became the way for Tonganoxie residents to pull together, help their neighbors and do whatever they could to help families in trying times. Team Tongie provides funds to families facing serious health and medical issues. Money is used for transportation to doctor appointments and treatments, paying for medication and helping with other day-to-day expenses while a family member is ill.” Almost $10,000 has been given out since its inception.
My pink, plastic friends have raised over $3,400 so far through their flockings. And lest someone take a shotgun to these surprise visitors, a note is attached to one of the birds’ “legs,” which reads: “Don’t despair. . . . A friend of yours paid to place these pink darlings in your yard. This flocking is done in good spirits and is not meant to be mean. These flamingos will roost on your lawn until this evening when they will mysteriously migrate to another friend’s (victim’s) lawn. . . . Of course, the removal of these flamingos will be done at no charge, so please don’t hurt our pink, feathered friends. Again, thank you for your sense of humor and your support.”
What the flockers could not have known is how much I needed a good laugh. A few days before, I’d returned early from my vacation to be with my mom, who had taken a nasty fall at her assisted living facility. She was in the hospital and I’d been spending a good deal of time there. My mind was preoccupied with Mom’s comfort and care and, even though I was getting sleep, it was not restful. I was dragging and stressed out until those crazy birds landed . . . and perked me up. There was even a picture of my flocking posted to the Team Tongie Facebook page with the caption: “Bless us, Father, for you’ve been flocked?”
The next morning, I took pictures of my pink visitors, so I could share them with my mom. Her first question was, “What do you have to feed them?” We had a good laugh when I told her they were made out of plastic. Those silly flamingos boosted Mom’s spirits as well.
I didn’t find out who “ordered” the flamingos for my yard until about a week later. I’m glad that the parishioners fessed up, so that I could thank them in person and tell them how much those birds meant to me. (And, on a side note, I was inspired to send those flamingos on a visit to someone else.)
This flamingo fundraiser shows clearly what is stated on the Team Tongie website: “Many times you don’t need a miracle, you just need each other.” We should never underestimate the power of kindness, of doing good for others.
I’ve witnessed so much kindness over these past few weeks of my mom’s rehab stint. She gets so excited when people drop in to visit or when she receives a get-well card. It even brings tears to her eyes — tears of joy, she says — when I tell her that people are thinking of her and praying for her recovery. Yes, many times all we do need is each other.
Let’s celebrate the season of autumn by looking for creative ways to brighten one another’s day. Don’t wait until “the holidays” to get into the mood of reaching out, especially to those who are lonely or needy. There are endless ways to do this. A compliment, a smile, a word of encouragement, a hug, an unexpected visit, a handwritten note, a donation of time or “stuff,” a gift for “no reason,” lunch with a neglected friend — these are the things that bring hope into people’s lives and holiness into the world.
And if you become a person of kindness and hospitality, I guarantee that people will flock to you.