I was walking out of the county courthouse this afternoon, running late to another hearing in the federal building, and one of the security guys asked me what the news was. I didn’t have any, I told him.
“The duck is gone,” he said.
“The duck? What duck?”
“The mother duck. Didn’t you see her?”
Nope, I hadn’t actually seen her. But I should have. A couple weeks ago, the city parks department had pulled out all the tulip stalks in front of the courthouse, except for one section dead center in the circular bed right in front of the main door. That section they roped off with yellow police caution tape, leaving all the tulip stalks in place. I saw the tape, meant to ask someone, but never did.
Apparently Mama Mallard built a nest in the flower bed, amongst the tulips, laid her eggs and was sitting on them when it was time to swap out the flowers. So the city, in a moment of sensible compassion, let her be and provided for her protection with the tape. So for a few weeks people passing by had no new flowers to look at, and were likely unaware of that duck.
But the security guys knew and they watched out for her, and watched her intently. During the horrendous thunderstorms of a couple weeks ago, while we were all engrossed in our horrible murder trial, they watched out of the second floor window while she flattened herself down in that nest to protect those eggs from any eventuality in all the wind and the rain.
“It’s kind of crazy,” the security guy said to me. “Here’s this duck, going to all that trouble. She knows how to take care of her kids and upstairs is that woman, on trial for killing her baby.
“The eggs must have hatched over the weekend. The nest was empty today.”
All afternoon, I thought about that duck. I thought about how God provides for even the smallest of creatures, how instinctively they know what to do and we can’t seem to function for more than five minutes without hurting anyone.
But then tonight, in a telephone conversation with my mom, again about my friends over on that blog, the duck made even more sense to me. I thought about how hard some people work to protect their kids, how much they go through to see them safely through to adulthood and how much of their own safety they risk and comfort they give up, just to see them off. I thought about how horrible it would have been for the city to have destroyed that nest out of expedience.
And I thought about the abuse scandals that plague our communities — our Catholic churches, our Baptist mission organizations, our Boy Scouts, our family dinner tables. I thought about all those parents who try to protect their children, covering their wings out over the nest, so carefully chosen for optimum safety. And yet it is all for naught because of the choices of others. And it makes me sad.
To those parents, I pray for you. It does mean something that you tried. It does.
To my fellow injured ducklings, I pray for us.
Here’s to safe passage to the water.
(Cute duckling photo copyright pam fray and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)