Is that your duck…or just a quacker?

lessons-from-ducks

As many of you know, I live on a beautiful lake in east Tennessee. Words like “breathtaking” or “beautiful” are so inadequate to describe the beauty and nature that I am fortunate enough to see each day. It would be like saying that a hurricane is a “little wind.” Words are just useless…but, hopefully, you catch my drift. Each morning, I look forward to what the day may reveal in the way of natural beauty and nature. We have had a wonderful Spring – not too hot, not too cool. Just right! And, oh my, the flowers, smells, sunrises, sunsets and new little “nature babies” are everywhere. So this week’s post is about some of those little babies…

We don’t know what happened to her, only that she was hurt. At first, we couldn’t figure out whether she had been hit by a car, been in a fight with a predator, or had gotten her foot stuck in a crevice or between rocks. The bottom line, however, was that she could only hop around on one foot. There was no way we could catch her, to take her to the vet. We simply had to watch her struggles, and each morning we were greeted with apprehension as to whether she had made it through another night, or had succumbed to the injury and died. Despite all the odds, she seemed to get stronger each day, and although her foot did not completely heal the way it was supposed to, she could still fly, and she now walked with a limp – a little “hop” actually. So one of our neighbors (the animal-loving ones…) named her “Hoppy.”

For the past three years, we have looked forward to Hoppy returning to our lake (and homes) each spring. This year, she had a little surprise for us…she was pregnant, and ended up having 11 (count ’em – ELEVEN) little ducklings. They have been adorable and we have had so much fun watching their “antics,” and watching them grow each day. As a result of my doing this, I have made some huge discoveries regarding motherhood.

Each day, this little mother has been responsible for feeding all of the ducklings, teaching them the “ways of the wild,” and keeping them safe every moment of their lives. (By the way, she really is a single Mom, with no help from anyone else, with the exception of a few neighbors who put out food for her and the babies.) We usually try not to count how many babies there are, because when you see that one is missing, you know that something bad happened. But I can’t seem to help myself, I count. So far (and they are almost totally grown now) she has only lost ONE baby. That is remarkable for this lake area, as we have eagles and hawks!

I have spent hours watching them, and what I see amazes me!! On one occasion, she apparently sensed some “danger” nearby, emitted a little sound that I could just barely hear, and every one of those ten babies swam to her side as if she were a magnet, and then they swam as “one unit” away from the danger, with her wings spread over them. You could hardly tell where a duckling started or ended. They looked like one bundle of feathers going down the lake.

I have watched as she finds a food source, and makes certain that each duckling is eating – all while she fervently scans about for danger. She is at attention and on guard every moment. Once they have all eaten, she will eat a little herself, and then off they go. It has been so much fun watching those babies learning how to eat. Some times they get too tired and will simply lay down in front of the food and eat. Other times, they will peck around the area quickly, getting as much food as possible. On another occasion, we had just put a little cracked corn out for them, knowing that they would be showing up within minutes to eat. In fact, they were in the next lot, watching us, waiting for the food. Mama took her time, but as she was watching the area closely, three HUGE crows zoomed into the tree just above the pile of corn. “In a New York second,” Mom gave another signal (I never heard it…), and ALL TEN of those babies raced over to the food before the crows could even get out of the tree! One crow made the mistake of trying to peck a little one, and Mama gave him a pretty good bite. He did not make a second attempt, and the babies got the food that was intended for them.

After eating, Mom took them back down to the water, and showed them how to “clean up.” She ducked her head under the water, came back up, spread her wings and flapped, all the while cleaning herself. Once she had done that a couple of times, she then gave another “silent” signal and all the babies began doing the same thing! Some got it right; some had to work at it a little harder. They were so adorable, doing everything that Mom did in perfect synchronization.

Those babies are smart! When Mom gives them direction, they respond immediately! They don’t lag behind, they don’t question “why,” they just act upon her instruction. Somehow they know that their livelihood and success depends solely on the teachings of their parent. And, of course, watching them got me to thinking about human parents and what lessons they are teaching their children. Do they let their children “slide,” and not follow directions or advice? Do they teach them lessons for failure or success? Do they love the children enough to be disciplined and to discipline? And most importantly, do they teach them by example? Those baby ducks get it! They KNOW that if they don’t do exactly what Mom is doing, they will not live to see another day. What are your children, grandbabies, nieces, nephews, etc., seeing when they watch you or observe your daily life actions? Is it something that will help them face the battles in life? Will they learn love and respect by watching what you do? Will they learn how to treat others with kindness and compassion? Will they learn how to work together? Will they realize the wonder and joy of what it means to be part of a family? Are you teaching them skills that can be used to succeed in life? Just WHAT are you saying to others as you live your life each day? Animals seem to get this…wouldn’t it be wonderful if humans got it too? Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

It’s just what I do…

One of the great blessings in my life is that I have wonderful friends who live all over the world! We can go weeks, months, or even years without seeing each other, and still slip into that easy comfort of closeness and friendship when we do actually get together. What makes things even more fun is when we meet for a fun-filled vacation at various “spots” that appeal to our sense of adventure and relaxation. This week’s story is about one such “adventure….”

Anyone who knows me, knows what I have done in my career, and why… I have worked all of my life working with, advocating for, protecting, providing care, and LOVING “old” people. The correct word to describe them is “elders,” but I wanted all of you to understand who I am talking about. I know that my love for this special group started as a child, loving my grandparents. And, oh my, did I LOVE them!! That love continued to grow as I fell hard and fast for each and every old person who attended all of my Daddy’s little country churches over the years. So, when I say I LOVE old people, it is not said lightly. It means they FILL my heart, that my emotions swell with joy, love, compassion, and that I just want to take care of them and make certain they have a wonderful quality of life.

Now, getting back to the story…As much as I love elders, there are times when I don’t want to feel the responsibility of caring for them; times when I simply want to turn off all the feelings, just relax and take care of me for a little while. I call these times vacations! And to be honest, I really have to work at turning off those “nurturing” feelings during this all too short timeframe. I don’t want to see an old person, think about an old person, take care of an old person…

So, some of my friends and I decided to go the “islands” for a vacation, and we were all going to meet in Atlanta at the airport and then fly to our final destination. All of our flights actually arrived on time in Atlanta (which was EXTREMELY UNUSUAL – lol!), and we had a “decent” layover before the next connecting flight. As we were sitting at our gate, waiting, we began to smell freshly popped popcorn. Our noses went on alert, searching for the source. I finally said, “I’ll go find the popcorn and get us some!” I began making my way down the terminal, just like an old coon dog, sniffing out where the popcorn was. I finally saw a little kiosk…the source of that wonderful smell. Standing behind the kiosk was an employee who obviously thought that this was her very last day on earth, and she had to come to work!! Really, what an attitude!! Grumpy and rude would not even begin to describe this woman accurately.

Standing in front of the kiosk was a short, very old woman, who would have fit Hollywood’s usual portrayal of a Russian itinerant worker. Her face was tracked with hundreds of lines reflecting a very long life of hardship, poverty, and possible sorrow. Shoulders stooped, the woman wore a dark olive shawl, draped over her head, and a long, thick skirt in the same color and material. Workman boots completed the outfit, and there was not one tooth in her mouth that I could see. And, she was OLD! From my observations, I determined that she could not speak the English language, and she did not have any money; however, she wanted some popcorn. She was trying to convey to the horrible employee that she just wanted a little taste of the popcorn, but did not have any money. I was standing in line behind the Russian woman, and there was this monster-sized cowboy standing behind me. He had to have been from Texas! He wore a huge 10-gallon hat, had cowboy boots the size of watermelons, and I’m certain he had to turn sideways to get those shoulders through a door!

As I was standing there, I began to feel my heart starting up…FEELING…wanting to put my arms around her…wanting to protect her…wanting to simply love her…My brain kicked in to counteract those feelings…stop it…you are on vacation…not your job…not your responsibility…you NEED this break…I emotionally took a step back to see how the situation might develop. The little Russian woman continued to try to convey what she wanted, and the employee continued to get uglier and uglier in her actions. The employee then “shushed” and waved the woman away, like she was a fly or insect. That was all it took for me. I swept into action, vacation or no vacation, it did not matter at that point. I leaned in to the employee, and in a voice that you hope you don’t EVER hear from me, said these words, “Give her the largest bag of popcorn that you have. Put a smile on your face as you are giving the popcorn to her, and THANK HER for her business! I will pay for it!! Do it NOW!” The employee hurriedly did exactly what I asked. As she was doing this, the cowboy leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Ma’am, if you had not done that, I was fixin’ to!” (Yes, cowboys ARE wonderful!!) The Russian woman realized what I had done, and followed me all the way to my gate, blowing kisses to me, with a big ole’ smile on her face. That is what my friends saw as I came back to my seat with their popcorn. I gave them all of their popcorn, and nobody said anything until we had “settled in.” They then all looked at me, and said, “What did you do this time?” My response? “Oh, you know me…It’s what I do…”

How can you NOT do a kindness for someone when it is well within your power to do so? Whether a person is old, young, middle-aged, poor, rich, in-between, what does it matter? The compassion and power to help others is something that lies within all of us. Some of us just act more readily when prompted. Amy Grant’s grandfather, A. M. Burton, made a statement years ago that went something like this: “Life is made up of golden chances, opportunities to do good. One lost is lost forever. If we miss doing a kindness to a friend, we can never do that kindness again. If we might speak a pleasant word, or offer a bit of worthwhile counsel or advice and fail to do so, we can never have just that opportunity again. Giving is a way of life.” How about joining me in giving as much as we can, whenever we can? It’s what we do! Just for this week…

“We beat it 2 death. Lol! Hahaha!”

I have had to wait to write this post as I have been so heartbroken and outraged over what happened to this little dog. If you are wondering what I am referring to…Two weeks ago a family in south FL could not find their little Pomeranian. The next morning they found the sweet pup laying at their front door, dead, with a note attached saying…”We beat it 2 death. Lol! Hahaha!” WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE????? Most of you who know me, know that I have such a tender heart and that I cannot, and DO NOT, accept or tolerate the abuse of any living being, especially children, women, elders, and animals.

When did our society become so barbaric and uncaring that someone could do this to a little innocent dog, and so far, get away with it?? Are people so enraged within themselves that they have to take those emotions and feelings out on some innocent? Why is it that others suffer when an individual or individuals cannot deal with their own failings as a human being? Do we not care as a society? Is it a case of “out of sight, out of mind?” Do these things just not matter anymore? I keep asking myself those questions, and keep trying to figure out how to correct what is SO WRONG with our world…

I want the world to be different. I want it to be a better place. I want people NOT to hurt or harm any other living being – EVER!!! So how does this happen? Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” So, let me tell you, I am going to start that change with me. I cannot “fix,” or be accountable, for everyone else, but I can certainly be accountable for me. Some things I intend to do so that this event is not forgotten and does not happen ever again…

I am publicizing this event on every piece of social media available so that maybe, just maybe, some neighbor in FL will know something, or have heard something, that will lead to the arrest and punishment of the individuals who beat that little dog. I intend to push my legislators (and support those organizations who lead this action) for stronger laws governing this type of crime. I will financially support those organizations (who I have researched and properly vetted) that rescue those precious animals who have no one to love them. I WILL REPORT any abuse and mistreatment that I see or become aware of to the appropriate agencies within my city and state. I will help support our local humane shelters. I WILL get involved!! And I will continue to show love and compassion to all of God’s wonderful creations. Me, you, ALL of us, “can be the change.” Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Even As You Do Unto Them, You Do Unto Me….

Thanksgiving! What a wonderful time of the year! However, this year will be just a little sad, as this is the very first Thanksgiving that I will experience without my Mother. Thanksgiving was OUR time! Thanksgiving is the holiday that ALL of our family members come home to celebrate. Mother would prepare each child and grandchild’s favorite dessert for this occasion (so we had quite a lot of desserts). She would begin a week ahead of time, cooking. I would arrive a couple of days before the holiday, and she and I would cook and cook, laughing and enjoying our time together in the kitchen. The night before Thanksgiving, I would tell her to get some rest, that I would get up throughout the night and check the turkeys and hams in the oven. One of my favorite, funny memories is of our entire family playing charades the night before. It was Mama’s turn and she had to act out the movie, “The Exorcist.” She turned her back to us at first to prepare herself, and when she turned around, she had contorted her face and body to where she DID look possessed!! All of us were just on the floor, killing ourselves laughing. She had nailed it!! And she had never even seen the movie! Of course, NONE of us guessed the correct answer…

We never knew how many people would show up for dinner, as Mother would invite ANYONE in the community who would be by themselves, or they had no family. We have had over FIFTY people present at various times for Thanksgiving dinner! Mother taught us that it was always better to give and share, especially when you had the means to do so. Her favorite saying was, “the word is compassion.” She lived by that Bible verse…”Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” She instilled that belief in all of us. So, here is the story for this week…

A couple of years ago, I was visiting my folks in MS. Although Mother had Alzheimer’s, she was still able to live at home. Whenever I visited them, the visits were always filled with my making repairs around the house. Mother and Daddy had always relied on me to do these things, and would have a “to do list” for each of my visits. Mother understood that this was one of the ways that I expressed my love for them, and that I enjoyed doing these jobs for them.

I was outside the house, completing some work on their carport. As I was working, a man walked up the driveway, and introduced himself as one of our new neighbors. He told me his name and we visited for a few minutes, as I welcomed him into the neighborhood. Then he got down to the reason for his visit…he explained to me that his family had just moved in, and he was starting a new job on Monday. However, he had a problem…the alternator in his car had gone out, and he was going around the neighborhood, attempting to find some “handyman jobs” in order to get enough money to pay for the alternator. He explained that he had just completed some work for one of our neighbors, and was wondering if he could do anything for us. He indicated that he was about $35 short of the amount he needed. Now, I will admit, I was not born yesterday, nor did I fall off of a turnip truck, so my first instinct was that this was a scam. The only problem was this…what if he was telling the truth, and what if I could help him, and I did not. Then there was that Bible verse that kept repeating itself in my head….”Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” I was in a quandary as to what to do. Adding to the “drama” unfolding before me, was the knowledge that I had exactly $40 in cash in my wallet, and I NEVER, EVER have, or travel with, any cash on my person. As I examined all of the information, I realized that I had only one course of action…I excused myself for a moment, went inside the house, and got the $40. I simply gave it to the man. I told him he did not have to earn it. His eyes filled with tears, and he starting crying as he began thanking me. I went over, placed my arms around him, and we cried together…perfect strangers. I told him that all of us find ourselves in situations at times where we need a little help from others…that I had been in his situation numerous times myself. I explained that I did not want him to do any work for me, but that at some time in the future, maybe he could help someone else in need. He promised that he would. He left, thanking me again for my kindness.

Was I taken in by a very good con artist? Did I give good money to someone who would abuse it? Who really knows? Maybe so, but I think not. And anyway, I could not have done it any differently…you see, there’s this Bible verse…Life lessons, those taught to me by my parents, still drive my actions today. I do feel that I made the right decision that day. I am thankful, and will continue to be so, for those wonderful lessons that have shaped my character, integrity, and have molded me into the person that I am at present. Each day I will continue to try and do the “right thing!” Won’t you join me? Just for this week….