We were sitting at a lovely seaside restaurant in San Diego, looking forward to enjoying seafood, gazing at the sunset scenery of the harbor, and hearing the birds (pigeons and seagulls) chirp in the open air porch of that restaurant. Suddenly I heard and felt a “plop”? on my shoulder, and I realized that a pigeon had landed on the light fixture overhead and had unceremoniously made an unwelcome deposit on me. Didn’t that pigeon know I am a bishop? Or perhaps the pigeon knew I am a bishop, and he was offering his evaluation!

Everyone around us, including the server and my wife Marsha and another diner at our table, rushed to help clean my shirt. The waitress apologized profusely, and the manager later arrived to make restitution for the damage to my shirt. Once everything settled down, we still enjoyed the lovely view (with the birds chased away), the meal, and the humor of it. But for a while there, I experienced first-hand what it means to be dumped on.

Have you ever been dumped on? Maybe not literally from a bird, but from other experiences in life? Have you ever been let down by someone you trusted? Have you ever been falsely or unfairly criticized? Have you ever been the topic of mean-spirited gossip? Have you ever experienced the discouragement of doing your best, but then hearing complaints that you did not do more? It is not much fun being dumped on, even if the event (like my experience) is funny.

How do you respond when you feel dumped on? In my case, I was forced to assess the situation to discern what had hit me. Since it was not a valuable contribution (and sometimes effective criticism is indeed a valuable contribution), I was glad to have it promptly brushed away. I was glad to rely upon the help of others, since I could not reach all of the deposit. And I felt some fairness in the restitution offered by the restaurant manager.

But mostly, I just laughed, and went on with a delightful meal and evening with friends. That is not so easy to do in other situations when we dumped on, but it still may be the best answer.

One of my mentors, Bishop Woodie White, used to say to us in Cabinet meetings, “We should always take our ministry seriously, but never take ourselves too seriously.” Somehow having a pigeon dump on me was a good reminder not to take myself too seriously.

So, I hope you are not often dumped on, but when it happens, I encourage you to laugh and to keep going.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner