Bahstun, Ducklings, And A Stranger Named Miguel

5 years ago

Seeing the Make Way for Ducklings! ducks was on my list. We walked to the Public Garden first thing, first morning, to see the little guys. My photography simply can't do them justice, so you're going to have to believe me when I say that it was mad, crazy, can-I-take-them-home-with-me?, love at first sight.

They are magnificent.

I found it interesting that while I had been excited to see Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack, the duck I fell hardest for was Mrs. Mallard. Just look at her, with her well-mannered ducklings marching along behind. She's the woman, I tell you. It would have been no small feat to keep those ducklings in line, and I tip my hat to her.

Something else happened at the Public Garden, and I can't stop thinking about it. Of all the lovely things in the very lovely city of Boston, this is the one I can't get out of my mind.

As my newly caffienated group of tourists marched purposefully toward the ducklings, a solitary man smiled at me. He was lounging comfortably on one of the benches that face Mrs. Mallard and crew, looking for all the world like he belonged there. I smiled back, of course. It's what I do. I've tried to train myself not to, but smiling at strangers is ingrained in my South Dakota heart by my South Dakota upbringing, and for better or worse, I smile. He said, "Good morning!" and I replied in turn. There were nine in our group, hustling along as they checked out the ducks, posing and snapping pictures, laughing and chatting and excited at the onset of adventure. Despite having been stricken with a profound case of duck-love, I found myself slowing to a stop before the man.

"How are you?" I asked.

He smiled, "I'm grrreat." He paused, just a fraction of a second, before adding, "Most people don't say hello to me. They see me and keep right on walking. Thank you for talking to me."

I smiled my South Dakota smile, and he took his cue.

"Most people see me and keep right on going. They're texting or talking on their phones, they have those buds in their ears, and they keep right on going. They don't talk to me and they don't talk to each other. I did tours in Iraq and tours in Afghanistan, and I'm telling you, it's not right."

I said the words I love to hear others say to my veteran, "Thank you for your service." He bobbed his head and closed his eyes for the briefest second, and I took my cue. "What do you do now?"

"I'm a drug and alcohol counselor. I was a junkie, but now I've got God. He's all I need." It was my turn to bob my head, acknowledging the simple truth of his words.

My group was ready to move on, so I stuck out my hand. "It's an honor to meet you. May God bless you in your work."

He thanked me again for stopping and told me again about God, as if he needed me to believe. Still grasping his hand, I lifted my knee slightly and showed him my leg. It was covered with the goosebumps I've come to understand mean that I'm in the presence of the power of my God. Smiling my biggest, joyful-est smile, and looking straight into his steady blue gaze, I replied,

"I know."


Karen is a freelance writer and speaker. You can follow her on Twitter at @karenklasi.

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