There’s a theme going on for me at the moment and experience tells me therefore to listen to what wisdom is saying.
Have you ever had the experience of discovering something that you were not aware of before, but then suddenly, now you have noticed it, it pops up everywhere? Suddenly it’s in the shops, the books you read and comes up in conversations… It was always there of course, but the thing that has changed is your awareness of it.
I’m going to express some of the themes arising for me, through these blogs, as I did last week. Some of the thought processing is still a little jumbled.
First I need to tell you a little story:
About 5 weeks ago, I took my grandchildren for an afternoon in a large country park that I love. We were 2 adults and 2 infants – a two-year old and a four-year old. At one point, after already over 2 hours playing with sticks and rocks beside the lake as we meandered around it, we came across a small tributary to the lake, that feeds in from the marina; this part is called ‘the Sweetener’ and has a metal grill over the bit of water closest to the grass. I went with the four-year old to look at the algae and insects through the grill, noticing a gap of about a foot between the 2 grill coverings… suddenly my grandson jumped into the gap, thinking that the lush-green algae was grass! He disappeared under the water! Of course I fell to my knees, reached into the water and grabbed him and pulled him out and he was shaken and wet, but was fine, thanks be to God. Later the images began to haunt me of what could have happened if I had not been at his side and not seen where he had gone… I discovered that dogs and rabbits are frequently having to be rescued from that patch of water, also mistaking the algae for grass. I knew that I needed to speak up and say something to prevent further disasters, but to whom? Looking on websites and speaking to others I decided to contact the council – I did this, as directed, by email and by phone, but was not satisfied that it would get any further than an in-tray or locked away in a file. So I found a number for the park and eventually spoke to a person who managed the park and he told me all about what the Sweetener was for and said he would go right-away to assess the health and safety of the area in light of my report. This made me feel much better and like I had done all I could to prevent further accidents. Two weeks later I walked the park again, only to discover that nothing had been done at all – it was still exactly the same. Last week I returned to the park and saw a patrol car with a pair of community officers in it by the lake and it occurred to me to report the issue to them and ask them to look at it with me. They were from the Council, so I felt very foolish doing this and every part of me rose up to dissuade me from saying anything, but I marched over to the car and told them the story. They drove round to the spot and I walked over and spoke with them there. There was a little duckling trapped under the first grill nearest the grass… clearly he had bobbed under the water for a snack, popped up on the wrong side and was unable to get back to his mother, who was not far away and was watching intently. The poor little duckling was disturbed also by our presence and got his little head stuck through the grill and the officer was trying to poke his beak back through, but feared the duckling had snapped his neck, as he was very still… at this point a small crown had gathered and a lady had a ball-thrower for the dog, which served as a long-handled scoop-spoon and finally the officer freed the duckling’s beak from it’s prison, he popped back up alive, and they used the ball-thrower to scoop the duckling to the side, where the officer grabbed the frightened little thing and tossed him back into the other side to his mother. We all applauded! Then the officer fetched some bright yellow plastic and tied it across the two grills to alert others of the danger for those thinking the algae is grass. He also said he would report the whole thing and his intervention to the warden on his way out. Meanwhile another chap came over and asked “Is this cos of the kid that fell in last year and all the dogs that fall in?” I explained.
As I came away I felt much better. If I had not spoken up, the duckling would not have been rescued from his prison, but I knew that the duckling was a bonus! I have told this story to a few friends who it seems all know a similar story of children and animals mistaking algae for grass. Now I have my own story. Despite feeling stupid, I spoke up, not once, not twice, but until something was done. The rescue of the duckling was a bonus and a lesson to me and to the officer, I believe. I spoke up because I had had an experience that made me aware of the issue. I get it. It’s like that with many issues in life; when we are aware of it we can do something about it. If something had happened that only affected me, I would perhaps have not had the courage to report the incident, but when a loved one is endangered, somehow the courage to protect and speak up to meet the needs of others is found more easily.
It’s not true that other people don’t care about things that some of us struggle with, it’s just that they may not see the problem or solution, they haven’t experienced it and just don’t get it. I will continue this theme. Last week I wrote about violence against women mainly – because I get it – not because I’m not aware or don’t care as much about any other victims of violence, but because, as a girl and a woman, I’ve been there and I get it. I’m not alone in that experience.
I can speak for women who can’t speak. And if I speak, it gives permission for another eventually to say, “Can I tell you my story?”
This brings healing, relationship, compassion, community and hope for change. And it brings joyful surprises – remember the duckling. Look out for the ducklings – the little bonuses as you reach out and speak up for yourself and for others.