The Chronicles of Kiwi, Part 16
The Birds

A bit more about the gulls.

Having grown up in the Midwest I was accustomed to birds with good manners. Our beloved Robin Red Breast would quietly hop about the yard each morning, leaning over to have a listen for some careless worm bumping into his worm furniture below. The extraction was over in a flash. Sometimes I would go out and lightly tap my foot on the ground and watch the robin bounce my way. He’d put his ear to the earth, look up, puzzled but thoughtful, lean in and eavesdrop again, look up, stand fully erect, confounded and gobsmacked. What to do? What to do? The mother of all worms was below his tiny feet. He eventually thought better of it and moved to another portion of the yard for his worm mining. Thus, my memories of the robins, sparrows, wrens, cardinals, doves and pheasants of my youth – all pleasant and benign.

When we headed to San Francisco for graduate school back in the early 80’s, I was naïve in my knowledge of either obnoxious Californians or obnoxious gulls. As I quickly discovered, the latter were the “wedding crashers” of ornithology. Yet, I found a way to leverage that audacious behavior into the new ministry for which I’d been hired – that of Youth Pastor.

Having a ministry within an hour of a beach is an asset. When you’ve been tasked with mentoring young lads and lassies into becoming mature, God-loving adults, you can’t just preach your way into their hearts – you must mold timeless truths around that which creation offers. Gulls worked perfectly for my wordless sermons. Here’s how it went down…

Not ten miles away from our chosen beach was Bodega Bay, the primary setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, The Birds. Predatory, flesh-munching birds were never far from anyone’s mind in Northern California. So, just when the young ladies from our youth group were settling in for some serious gossip and sunbathing, the guys were to surreptitiously drop bread crumbs in and about the designated area. Then we would sit back and watch. The gulls never disappointed. They would sweep in and it was YOWING and screaming pandemonium. Of course, afterwards, I would act innocent and somewhat wounded and say things like, “Ladies, we really need to have a chat about some of the language I just heard. I’m shocked…shocked. What would your parents think? What would Jesus do?” They knew better. I got a hand-full of beach flung at my face. Boom! I could now teach about forgiveness! You see how it all worked?

When the boys asked about doing the same with complete strangers I knew I had to draw a line in the sand…to show them exactly how close I felt they could get if they chose to do that. It was enormously entertaining – a Far Side cartoon in real time.

I admit the technique was a bit unorthodox. Yet, I knew that being a Youth Pastor would not last, but friendships might – and that was the point. I remain dear friends with the hundred or more young souls that were entrusted to me for a season. Over the years, I’ve gone back and forth across the country performing their weddings and receiving them as guests in our home. So, as I wrote about gulls yesterday, I did so with much affection. They were once a means to a very good end