The Kindness of Strangers
As many of you know, I have a day job. I am the practice manager for an anesthesia group in New York State. Every morning I start my day at the hospital OR, picking up the previous day’s charts, getting signatures from my docs, and taking care of any business they have there. Then I hop back in my car and drive a mile or so to my office.
Last week, I had the opportunity to witness a tragic event unfolding in the parking lot, and to see firsthand how people pull together for the greater good.
As I was leaving the hospital, a mama duck and her three tiny ducklings waddled across my path in the parking lot. I couldn’t help but smile at the wobbly little balls of fluff as they hurried to keep up with mom. I started to hurry to my car so I could grab my phone and get a picture or two of this little family. As I approached my car, I glanced back to the ducks. Mama had hopped the curb and she was loudly urging her kids to do the same. The little ducklings jumped and struggled but kept falling backwards onto the pavement. Camera forgotten, I rushed back over to them.
I gently scooped the first duckling up onto the curb. As I reached for the second, I glanced over to the last duckling who had scurried a few feet away. As I did this, the little guy (girl?) hopped right over a storm drain and disappeared through the grate. My heart raced as I scooped up the duckling in front of me and set it gently on the curb.
I stepped over to the grate where Mama Duck was frantically pacing and squawking. The little duckling seemed unharmed but was about three to four feet down swimming around in a small pool of water. There were three large tunnels that ran off from the pool and my heart sank as I realized how easily he could disappear from view.
I turned and ran back into the hospital and asked a friend at the surgery waiting area desk to call security. She handed me the phone and I told the voice on the other end what had happened. He said someone would meet me at the grate.
By the time three security guards arrived, a small crowd had joined me in staring down at the tiny duckling. One of the ladies waiting with me had called up to a family member who was visiting someone in the hospital and asked her to bring down some bread to keep mama duck happy while the rescue effort ensued. She now stood in a grassy area between the parking lot and the hospital, tossing small pieces of bread for the duck and her two remaining babies.
It quickly became apparent that the grate was not going to be moved easily, so two guys from the Facilities Department joined us. They wedged open the grate and managed to move it with one man on each of the four sides. One of the facilities guys put on some surgical gloves and inched head-first over the drain opening. He hung upside down trying to fish out the little duckling who was swimming and bolting around the area in a panic. We all held our breath. Finally, success! The other men pulled him up and there in his hands was a tiny soaking-wet duckling quacking for all he was worth.
He set the tiny bird down on the grass about five feet from the mama duck, and we all cheered as the little tyke took off, tiny wings just a-flapping, for his mom. The little duck family nuzzled each other and happily walked away.
I have been smiling all day. This does not happen every day. Not only did I witness the miracle of love in nature, but I worked with complete strangers to remedy a situation purely because it was the right thing to do. None of us will receive accolades in the media. None of us were paid a monetary reward by the frantic mother duck. We helped because we couldn’t imaging not helping.
In a world full of bad news about bad people doing bad things to others, it was refreshing to be a part of something so genuinely good, something bigger than our individual selves. Now some might say, big deal. You got help for a duck. Whoopee! Well, I say, yes! Whoopeee, indeed! If we are so callous and jaded that we can’t celebrate our victories, no matter how seemingly small and possibly insignificant, then we are truly lost. But I say this was not an insignificant thing, especially not to one Mama Duck and her three babies. 🙂