He arrived in my peripheral vision from the lake, fluttering through the trees and crash landing, tumbling beak over feathers on the grass beside the picnic table where I was eating my lunch. When he recovered from his landing, he stood there balancing uneasily on one foot, caught in that space between caution and hunger. Hunger won out but as he tried to hop closer on his one leg, he fell again, gamely pushing himself upright with his beak. After a while, he decided I was a friend and sat in the grass next to my table while I fed him some bread I had in the car. And now lunch is over and I’ve journalled for the day and read for while and he’s still sitting here peacefully. A while ago, I walked to the ranger station and one of the rangers came by to check him out. Oh, he’s Buddy, the park’s one-legged duck, she said. He’s been here for quite a while and he’s a Survivor. But it’s the beginning of the mating season and the other males have probably been picking on him. He’s probably happy to sit with you and have some peace. I can be a guy with a big ego that wants each day to have a big purpose, but when I put that big ego aside, what more could I ask for a Monday than to provide an easy meal and a couple hours of solace for one of our park ducks? And to know that he’s a Survivor, that he persists in spite of the odds against him.
As much as we love the happy ending where everything turns out perfectly, we may love the story of a Survivor even more. Because if we are honest with ourselves, we know that perfect endings are rare, that some of our days require that we be a Survivor in some way big or small. So, Buddy the One-Legged Duck, as much as it pains me to see you struggle, thanks for stopping by and giving an old guy a small purpose and a little inspiration. I’m at this table three or four times a week. I hope to see you again.