it's been a long time since i sat on my porch and wrote a post. it feels good to sit here and write again.
i could write about a lot of things from this weekend: really, really good things. but i feel the need to document one in particular from a couple hours ago.
my mama and i went on a walk this evening. it was perfect weather; i felt like the outside was too warm and inviting to even consider staying indoors, and it was fun greeting neighbors who apparently felt the same.
eventually, our walk was interrupted by the tiniest, but most urgent of distractions: mom spotted a tiny duckling at the end of a driveway we were passing. at first we cooed and smiled, admiring how cute and absolutely fuzzy the little tyke was. but eventually we realized that it wasn't okay. it kept running in little circles...round and around it went, its path the smallest possible circumference. eventually it would get dizzy and fall on its back. then it would struggle and struggle to get up again, its little webbed feet flailing and thrashing as if the air itself were pressing enough to keep it down. finally the duckling would get up, only to repeat this terrible cycle. all the while, it was chipping its tiny little chirp, desperate for help.
as we realized what was happening, i knew i couldn't pretend like i didn't see it. i couldn't just walk on and continue to chat about the types of neighborhood trees or the good weather. perhaps it's in moments like these that i realize where i get that determined compassion from: one look at my mom and i knew she couldn't leave it either. that was comforting. but neither of us knew how to help.
after standing there a few long minutes, debating on what we could do, i couldn't bear to watch it struggle anymore. my mind snapped into action. i had to DO something. i started to get antsy and impatient as we discussed what we could do or who we could call.
call. shoot. ironically we had left our phones at home so that we could be in the moment as we enjoyed our little walk. we'd have to borrow a phone. we decided mom would stay with the duck and i briskly walked to a friend's home a few blocks away. my walk turned into a jog. i rang the bell; no one answered. anxious, i ran back to mom and the duck and i could tell mom was getting pretty distressed. she had been corralling the little duck with her feet so that it wouldn't wander into the road. she'd observed that it couldn't open its eyes and thought it might be blind. the way it was continuing its little pattern, it might be injured as well.
i ran down the next street in the opposite direction to another neighbor, who had majored in zoology, but no one was there either.
across the street, i saw a family with a few generations, the children playing a little softball game in the front yard while grandparents and uncles and aunts looked on. i knew that grandma and went over to speak with her. i explained the situation and got some bread from her, but i knew that's all i could really ask for as it was mothers day and i didn't want to disrupt their gathering more than necessary.
i hurried back to mom and the duck, but the duck wouldn't eat the bread. i was getting a little desperate. what does one do in this odd situation?
mom decided to go to another neighbor we knew across the street from our location to see if she could get some water or call animal control or something. this time, i stayed with the little duck. i squatted down and tried to guide it to the bread. because it was so frantic and couldn't see, i doubt it even knew food was there. i suddenly wished i knew more about ducks. do they smell? would it do better in grass? could i touch it? i hadn't touched it yet because i vaguely remembered reading something about touching birds eggs and the mother bird disowning the eggs. was it the same with actual ducklings? probably not? i didn't dare chance it. i felt like i stood there forever but it was probably about seven minutes. in those seven minutes, though, the strangest experience happened. all those thoughts went through my head. then feelings of desperation, impatience, frustration that i didn't know more about how i could help.
i crouched down, so i could be as close to it as possible. it must have been an odd sight, to see a girl dressed in a sunday skirt, holding half a piece of bread crouched down next to the gutter.
my brain turned over ideas of what to do and it wasn't long before it exhausted all the limited options. all i could do was wait. then my mind caught hold of the thought, "why do i care so much? why do i care at all?" my memory raced back to my childhood, most of which is a blur, to my mother reading me make way for ducklings. i had loved that book. she read it to me at bedtime, or maybe when i took baths? or whenever she read me books. i couldn't quite remember when, i just remember her reading it and me loving it. maybe that's why i apparently like ducks? or maybe it was back in high school when one of my best friend's family, the clifford family, were raising chickens, so i saw them from when they were eggs incubating to when they were fuzzy tuftballs of yellow energy, hopping around and chirping happily. we named them and even cuddled with them while we watched a movie. maybe it was that?
no, those were good memories, but i don't think they impacted me to this extent.
and then it sort of hit me. not like a revelation, but more of a quiet thought: this creature is living. living and helpless and lost and weak. its cries are too quiet to be heard by anyone making any sort of noise, and its presence too small to be noticed by passing cars. and if i left it, it would probably die alone. no one else would likely notice. at least, i'm pretty sure no one in our neighborhood has pet ducks.
but for that alone, i would fight for it and try to do everything in my power to help it survive, or at least not be alone when it passed. i feel silly admitting this, but even now there are some tears running down my cheek as i think of this.
but maybe it's not so silly. as i watched that duckling struggle, and as i realized that it was helpless and so was i in helping it, my mind recalled various memories of watching friends and family members struggle with battles: mental, physical, spiritual, emotional battles. feeling so much empathy for them, but feeling totally helpless in being of any use. coming to terms with the fact that some battles are meant to be fought alone while i could be a warrior alongside them in others. and ultimately, i thought of an experience i had last year as i had the privilege of being there when a dear sweet friend of mine quietly slipped from this life to the next after he fought his hardest battle: the battle to give up fighting for life.
a noise snapped me back to the present; mom was leading the neighbor and her daughter to the place i was standing. i straightened and watched as they approached. they brought a paper plate and a gallon-sized plastic bucket. we used the plate to get the duck into the bucket so that we could carry it without hurting it. the neighbor and her daughter directed us to their neighbors across the street who apparently fed ducks, and pointed out the feed that was on the sidewalk in front of that house. they kindly wished us luck and left us. mom and i headed to the duck-feeding neighbor, but of course no one answered the door. of all the days to try to rescue a stranded duckling, it had to be mother's day and apparently everyone was at their mother's.....
neither of us felt good about leaving it on the sidewalk, even though it was more out of the way of the main road and there was food. nope, we couldn't leave it. we decided to take it to the clifford's, who lived about 10 minutes walking distance away.
we were super anxious by this point as the duckling was steadily growing more and more uneasy in its new predicament. as we briskly walked, we came upon a neighbor in her garden. we both felt we needed to ask her help. "jan!" my mom called. "do you know anything about ducks?" out of context, what an odd question. but we both knew jan loves animals. to our slight surprise, she replied, "a little. why?" we showed her our new little friend. immediately, she scooped up the poor little thing and nuzzled it into her hand. for the first time, the duck looked still and calm.
apparently, jan had incubated and bred some birds growing up. we quickly spoke with her about options. she said that she would take the little duck in at least for now, to get it back to health. she said she'd have to get feed for it tomorrow and hoped that it survived the night. i did, too. even though i felt a tinge of anxiety leaving it, mom and i both felt good entrusting the little duck to jan.
mom and i walked back home, got the car and drove to the clifford's, but no one was there. we realized that was all we could do, for now. we drove back home and i stepped outside to write this. it's dark now, and i watched the sun set as i wrote.
i don't know why this experience happened. but all the while, in the back of my mind, i think i knew that i was experiencing something of a microcosm.
i feel like i started to understand a fraction more of what God really feels for each of us. no one else really cared a whole ton about this duck except for jan, and i didn't expect them to. they hadn't seen it struggle and they hadn't invested their afternoon into helping it and they were likely in the middle of things that were important to them and rightly so. besides, my mom and i had already taken responsibility for it. if someone would have come to me with a lost duck, maybe i wouldn't have been as invested either, especially knowing that the person was already taking care of it. but today, in ten minutes time, i went from not knowing that duck existed to devoting my time and resources to try to help it survive first and eventually hopefully thrive.
i don't remember which point in the experience i did, but at one point i prayed in my mind. something like, "Father, please help me to know how to help this little duck. please help me to find someone who can help if i can't. maybe it doesn't matter at all but it really matters to me right now." and then i was ever so gently reminded that He feels that way about each of us.
maybe at times we feel like we don't matter to anyone else. maybe we don't feel like we even matter to ourselves. maybe we're okay running around in circles and falling down and struggling, and maybe we're not okay with it but that's the only thing we know how to do. maybe we do it because we're not strong enough to do anything else, or because we're lost, or because our eyes aren't opened either for one reason or another. but regardless, i am confident we have someone who watches over us, who cries with us, who wants us to get up, to first survive, then to thrive. and when we fall down again, He will still help us get up. first to survive. then to thrive.
i could write another whole set of blog posts about understanding the reason i know this in practicality, and how i have felt God's love for other people, but those are stories for a different day. this post is about finding a little lost duckling.