Are You A Duck or a Goose?
Equally as important as recognizing when we are fighting for crumbs is also recognizing when we are being fed crumbs.

When I was a small child, my father would take me to Bellevue Park, at the time, a very small, free of charge zoo in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. It had Bisson, Deer, Bears, Otters, Peacocks, and a variety of other birds. The park has been void of caged animals for decades now. The only animals there today, are the ones that want to be there. Ducks, Geese, and a few squirrels own the free-range land now as they did when I was a child. Another constant is the sight of a small child with a parent walking around throwing bite-sized breadcrumbs at the ducks. It was one of my favourite things to do.


I remember sitting at the kitchen table breaking the bread up into little pieces and putting them back into the Bluebird Bakery plastic bag. Bluebird Bakery was a beloved local bakery that no longer exists but provided for the community in many positive ways. The excitement of preparing those bread bites and then feeding the ducks was one of the park visit highlights. The other was watching the ducks congregate together and fight for one of those pieces. They all splashed in the water causing ripples that only drew more birds towards them adding to the already intense battle.  


It was a routine event, until one day, one of the birds did something different. One of the geese stood outside the group of ducks, on the edge of the pond shore and watched me throw the bread. Its head turned from side to side, like it was watching a tennis match between me and the ducks as I threw bread and they fought for it. Then it slowly walked over the ridge of the pond towards me while it extended its neck forward and then withdrew it. Another step and then a pause as it looked at me. Another step again, followed by a hiss. I wondered what it was doing until it was about 2 feet away from me. Again, it looked at me and now I was looking at it with greater concern. My father said throw it some bread and I did, but it didn’t acknowledge it. Instead, it inched closer yet again. Then it threw open its wings, hissed and began an aggressive plunge towards me.


That’s when I took flight. So, with the bag of bread in my hand, I ran. The goose decided it would follow. It was the trial of a new Olympic event, boy vs. bird. I ran because I was scared. It ran because it was presumably hungry and wanted more than a small crumb. I never knew a goose could run so fast. As this all ensued, my father yelled, “give it the bread” in a voice that bounced off the surrounding trees and then faded like an echo atop a mountain. If I let the bread go, I’d have nothing to feed the ducks with, but if I kept it, I was certain this goose wouldn’t stop at the bread if it caught me. It was gaining ground on me. I decided to settle for the silver medal as I tossed the bag of bread sideways and watched the goose veer towards it, abandoning its pursuit of me.


As I slid to a stop, I could feel my heartbeat outside of my body, asking myself what had just happened? Bent over slightly with my hands on my knees, I watched that goose gobble up the bread inside the bag. Although some seagulls were circling around it like vultures, not a single bird approached that goose. There was a perimeter around it, like a force field as it stood confidently looking around with an empty tattered plastic bag at its feet. Off in the distance, my dad was laughing and shaking his head.


As a child, that event was nothing more to me than outrunning a bird who just happened to eat all the bread and prevented me from the joy of feeding the ducks while being out with my dad. An event that I told my friends and family about, while my dad laughed about the day a goose chased his son. Through the years and as I think back, it has evolved into a life lesson for me and perhaps for anyone who wishes to apply it to their own personal situation.


How often do we fight for crumbs in our life? As a child, a student, a professional, a friend, a spouse, a leader, a follower, or whatever status you identify with, there has likely been a moment where you found yourself amoung the ducks. You may have found yourself battling others, reaching for whatever came your way because in that moment it was the most important thing in your life that could help sustain you, get you to the next level, or perhaps simply satisfy you.


That goose must have decided that it was done fighting for crumbs. It was done with the slow process of getting only the opportunity to consume a piece of bread, while battling other geese and ducks. So, on that day, it did something different than anyone of the other birds. First, it observed the process. Then it made a plan and a commitment to it. Finally, it relentlessly pursued its goal, overcoming all obstacles.


Equally as important as recognizing when we are fighting for crumbs is also recognizing when we are being fed crumbs. There are a lot of crumbs in our world today across politics, employment, healthcare, education, social circles, and even basic subsistence. The decision to be a duck fighting for crumbs, or a goose who takes control of their destiny is ultimately ours to first recognize and then act on.


Are you a duck or a goose?


This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of  The Monthly Social Podcast. It may also be heard on The Path Radio Mix Online. You can read other opinion articles on the blog page.


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