This story is from 1981 when Aaron was 7 and Tommy 5. We were in the middle of our lawsuit against Cincinnati Public Schools to allow Aaron to be able to go to public school. Enjoy.
At the end of our street is a pond. Our family often takes walks down there to see the ducks and give them bread crumbs. One day last summer, an old man was down there and said: “Did you see the handicapped duck?”
Well considering I was pushing my seven-year-old son with a severe disability in his stroller, and considering the 24 hours a day I spend thinking about people with disabilities–this was really too much.
The friendly man went on, “Probably a frog ate his foot or maybe he caught it on the fence…”
Sure enough, there were about 40 ducks and one duck was missing his foot and about one-half of his leg. The duck hobbled toward us but when Tommy tried to pet him he scrambled for the bread crumbs with the rest and then swam away.
Before we left, we did throw him some extra bread crumbs just because we wanted him to know we were friends who understood life’s little extra challenges.
I went home and joked to my friends that at least some humane society didn’t come and set aside a special pond for disabled ducks, start a supplementary training program and segregated nesting area–or some exploiter didn’t take him to Utah and enter him in some freak show for tourists.
We checked in once in a while over the winter, but I really was a lot more worried about people with disabilities than the ducks. We were trying to mainstream Aaron, into a public school. (This was before “inclusion” was thought possible.)
Yesterday the weather was warm so we walked to the pond and saw there were only about 15 ducks. We were only there a minute when that same man came running down full of concern. He told us someone was catching the ducks, putting them in plastic bags, throwing them into the middle of the lake, and then watching them drown.
We were shocked. Who would do such a thing?
Meanwhile, the few ducks that remained came swimming toward us looking for the breadcrumbs. Guess What?
The “handicapped” duck was among the survivors.
I’m not sure what this all means or why I thought to write about it, but with all the cutbacks and anything else they can think up–I think the duck gave us a message–we’re going to make it. There are some mean horrible people out there, sure. But there are also wonderful people like the man who cared for the ducks. There is risk in being in the community–but that is also where there is safety.
This week Aaron learned to peel his own banana, he went boating and he saw a “handicapped” duck that was smarter than the non-handicapped ducks. We also just need to get smarter.
The dream… it lives!
Quiz: For those of you who read the story about the difference between disability and handicapped (click here) and tell me. Did our duck with the one leg have a disability, a handicap, or both?
Share your Stories of Hope
What helps keep your dreams alive? Any duck or pet stories?
The link to the article about the difference between the words disabled and handicapped doesn’t work as it links to an internal page of the website. Instead, it should read as for sure most of us will have figured out. https://climbingeverymountain.com/do-the-words-disability-and-handicapped
Thank you again for your articles.
Thanks Karine, can you tell me if it works now? Mary
I have been reading your blog for about five years now.
One story I remember is about a sheltered turtle. It is on Sarah Ely’s blog.
It is a good parable.
I have reason regularly to observe the social structures of ducks and similar grouped birds.
And also the ones which fly like martins and mudlarks and plovers and also egrets, comorants and herons.
In 2001 I studied RAMSAR and shearwaters.
LOVE IT! Thanks Adelaide, I needed a dose of inspiration today. We can learn so much from nature, if we see with our eyes of inclusion.
And, Mary, it was with “eyes of inclusion” that I saw a Pacific Black Duck grubbing in a puddle.
They love the water and the gravel so much.
i believe that people who have certain disabilities shouldn’t be treated differently (when possible) because this might hurt them. the ducks here are a very good example
Thanks for your comment. So many people love the ducks in this story. You’re right, they teach important lessons.
Each person should have the same human rights and dignity. Each person should then be allowed to have their individual differences. Glad you liked the duck story. Thanks for commenting.
This article is certainly eye opening. It shows how even in societies more basic than ours (such as ducks in a pond) there is a prevalent understanding of equality. The duck missing a foot did not act different than the others, and it was not treated as such. And in reference to the paradigm of survival, this article essentially proves that being “handicapped” does not take away from one’s ability to survive. Despite the missing leg, the handicapped duck survived whilst other two-footed ducks did not, and that says a lot.
I never thought of that, but you’re right Noah. I’m sure the ducks have some sort of society with its own hierarchy and rules. Interesting idea.
I love it!
I don’t have any duck nor animal stories, but I wanted to comment and let you know that I am so happy that I found your blog. My daughter is 7 and has a severe disability. A year ago I decided I was going to get her out of her moderate-severe classroom and into a General Education classroom at our neighborhood school. There have been many tears in the last year, but we survived her first year there and she gets to go back this coming year. I thank you and others like you who have helped paved the way. I am a strong advocate of inclusion and look forward to doing my part and continuing the work. Thank you, thank you!
Nelia, I’m so glad you’re here. I really appreciate your comment. Sabrina is lucky you are advocating for her. It is a long struggle but even though there were many tears, the trick is to concentrate on the smiles. I hope you are keeping the success stories in your heart. This year will have it’s own challenges, but like our little duck, you are stronger and smarter and you have the foundation from last year. You and Sabrina are paving the way for the next generation. The only way to survive is to cherish each success. Forget (or try to forget) the bad stuff and keep a photo album, “goodie jar” or bulletin board where you keep the happy memories. Keep in touch and feel proud of everything you have accomplished.
I like this article because it shows how many every day things can be viewed in so many different ways. Seeing a duck that is missing part of his foot and leg may just be passed by and disregarded by many people, but someone who may have a handicap o a disability may stop and see something else in the duck. This just shows how so many different things can be looked at in so many ways. I liked how the duck survived and it showed you a message that you will make it too. It is very ironic that something so simple can be so powerful.
Glad you like it Tyler. It is all about POV and you’re right, sometimes the things that are so simple tell the biggest story.
Interesting, Mary. That the duck had had to be smarter all along to survive and then his survival skills came into play when all in his group were threatened. So he is disabled but not handicapped, in fact, he is the opposite. (Did I get it right? :-))
Alison, you did get it right. Check out the comic that Abby (just above you) posted. It’s cute and smart.
Love ya. M.
I’m not sure how much this connects, but your account of the duck reminded me of this comic: http://i.imgur.com/MY2Ys.jpg Just like your duck, the puppy had a disability, but not a handicap. They both continued to go about their lives and activities with little to hold them back. The boy in the comic was disabled as well, but unfortunately let his disability handicap him (keep him from playing outside, only thinking of disabilities with a negative mindset)until the puppy showed him that didn’t have to be the case. It just goes to show how easy it is to view people (and in this case, animals) with disabilities as only their disability where they should be viewed first and foremost as people (…and animals).
Abby, this is amazing. Where did you find this cartoon?
This is really something to share with the class. How about we open the Discussion section on Blackboard and you could post it there. Love this! It does make us get into the head of the boy.
We have to believe in the best, right. I’ve never looked at ducks the same way.
Hey Shelby, like the Gravitar.
I find the point of view in this article to be an important part of the story. Personally, if I saw a duck with a missing foot I would probably be like the old man. I’d want to tell people because it’s something you don’t see often and maybe I’d wonder how he came to be missing a foot. As a mother of someone with disabilities however, there was a connection to the duck. The survival of the duck had a different meaning. I found that to be a cool connection. I also think that it’s wonderful that you were able to find hope in that, that someone with a handicap has just enough of a chance to survive.