We live on a lake in Washington with an old dock. Often we see various forms of wildlife on the water – ducks, geese and other waterfowl. Today I saw something I’ve not seen before: a wounded goose. At first I noticed his walk…it was a bit “off”. As I looked closer, I saw that his left wing was damaged. He is unable to fly or spread his entire wingspan yet appears able to find nourishment on the lawn and in the water. So far, so good. He is able to support his life with food and to walk around. Yet he is unable to be a true goose: taking flight when desired and being with his flock.
As I pondered ways to help him, I saw the flock of geese that he is normally a part of return and inhabit the dock. The entire flock stayed away from this wounded goose, neither paying attention to him nor coming near him. The flock flapped their wings, strutted around, picked at the grass and finally flew away with great gusto and majesty. The wounded goose was left behind.
I felt a sadness as I watched this “arrival and departure” of the flock that this goose was once a member of. He was ignored by his group – left to fend for himself because he wasn’t normal looking or able to fly. I asked myself: “How do I do this in my own life”? “Are there times when I abandon another because of a difference or a disability?” While my immediate answer was “no, I don’t do that” I wondered: is there some subtle way I, nonetheless, shun another person? As I thought about it, I pondered the magazine covers I’m drawn to: lovely people (by American standards), fit people (by American standards) or “special people” (again, by American Standards) and the people I pay attention to: bright, shiny people who inspire me in some way or serve as “models” for what I think I need or deserve in my life. What about all the others? What about the everyday person or the less gifted individual?
And what about my own life? As I approach my senior years, I find myself wondering: what will I be like in 20 years? Will I be a person that others ignore for the flock of younger more appealing people? Will my life matter? Will I be rejected or will I enjoy a sense of belonging?
And so today, this lonely goose is teaching me a valuable lesson: treat everyone with love and compassion, never abandoning a human being for what they might be lacking. And to notice why I am drawn to some people and not to others. And to continually open my heart to all of mankind, offering acceptance and connection, hospitality and community.