Little white duck
A lone little white duck floated on the water. Small ripples followed close behind as he paddled around the only place he had known as home. The surroundings were familiar to him, and in that familiarity, he drew solace.
He was aware of his differences from all the other inhabitants and knew his status. Even so, he was happy and satisfied just being a duck – a duck that lived on a lake, a lake that teemed with a great diversity of other life. But he was still lonely being the only duck.
On the southern end of the lake lived a family of mud turtles sunning themselves on fallen logs – ready to slip beneath the surface and into the safety of the muddy shoreline at the first hint of danger. They ignored the little white duck as he neared.
It was an easy thing to do. After all, he was different and didn’t look like any turtle they had ever seen before. Residents of the lake for much longer, they considered him not to be a threat and not really worth their time away from their important job of sunning.
With a quack hello, the duck paddled past and over to a pair of loons. One white, the other gray, they stood on spindly legs in the shallow waters of the stream inlet waiting for the morning sun and breakfast.
Reeds, indiscernible from the loon’s spindly legs, choked the inlet and provided not only the ideal cover for the loons, but a smorgasbord of bugs. They bobbed their heads slightly in acknowledgment and then ignored the little white duck as they snapped up the water bugs.
After all, he wasn’t one of their kind. Once again he gave a friendly quack and paddled past.
Midday, a flock of Canada geese skimmed the surface of the lake and then landed with a splash. Ripples rocked the little white duck but didn’t deter him. He paddled over to investigate the newest visitors to his watery home. He remembered they had come about this time last year and had ignored him. Maybe this year it would be different.
The geese were brown with black necks and twice his size. One or two were even white just like him. Still small by their standards, he was much larger than a year ago. Surely they’d welcome him to their flock, especially the ones that looked like him. After all birds of a feather do flock together, don’t they?
They didn’t. Instead they spent the afternoon diving underwater for food, all the while swimming away from him.
Apart from all others, two snow white swans sat on the banks of the northern shore. Their long graceful necks intertwined in a loving embrace as they groomed each other. Such graceful and beautiful creatures, surely they wouldn’t mind if he spent some time with them. Waddling up on shore, he quacked his friendliest hello.
Their reaction wasn’t what he expected. In an instant the once beautiful creatures turn ugly. Flapping their wings they pecked and squawked at the duck, driving him back into the water, away from their sunny spot.
Rejected once again, the lonely little duck paddled away. He finally understood. Even though all life on the lake had similarities, all were indeed different.
And some of those differences could never be overcome, especially if only one party is willing and the other is not.
For the rest of the afternoon, each inhabitant kept to their part of the lake, seldom visiting one another.
When the turtles crawled up on a new log too close to the loons, the loons moved.
As the Canadian geese paddled over to visit, the graceful swans flew to another part of the lake.
The swans isolated themselves from all others, believing themselves to be better than the rest.
A great sadness came over me at the end of the day as I watched the little white duck circle the lake in search of someone who was similar. Finally, The Wife and I called him over.
He waddled up on shore, gobbling bread and our leftover french fries. For a moment he seemed happy. Someone, though very different than he, had cared enough to pay attention to his needs.
Like the inhabitants of the lake, all of us are different, but we’re all the same. And moving away from one part of the lake to another just because of status is not the answer to getting along. It’s the problem.
Ignorance fosters contempt. This year, visit a shelter and lend a helping hand or read a book at a retirement home. And when you’re done, visit your new neighbor and get to know them and their differences. After all, it’s our differences that make us all stronger.