When the World Held Its Breath
This Isn’t Really About Ducks
The music turned to news, and though I tried to concentrate on my book as I sat in the dentist’s waiting-room one early spring morning, I was suddenly diverted when the news turned into the 8:00 A.M. traffic report.
“Slowdown on Highway 101 in Millbrae. A mother duck and fifteen babies are trying to cross the freeway. CalTrans workers are entertaining them at the side of the road until Highway Patrol arrives to stop traffic and help them across.”
I laughed out loud but discovered that no one else in that waiting-room had even heard the report.
Suddenly, I found myself holding my breath, as I was transported in my imagination to that scene. I envisioned all the people who were stopped on the freeway that morning holding their breath as those sixteen ducks crossed in front of them. Then it seemed that it wasn’t only the worker in his car who stopped, but also all the workers in his office – holding their breath, waiting; it wasn’t only the children on the school-bus, but also the whole school where they were going that held its breath and waited; and not only the doctor on her way to the hospital, but also the whole hospital held its breath and waited. It was as though, for a few moments on a busy Tuesday morning, the whole Bay Area stopped and held its breath for a mother duck and her fifteen babies.
Today This Isn’t About Ducks.
I realize that I have been holding my breath for weeks as I’ve watched the terror in the holy land unfold. People on both sides are trying against all odds to get to where they are safe. And the bombs fall, the threats continue, the buildings collapse, resources vanish, people die, hope diminishes. No one knows what will happen.
We have held our collective breaths a few times in my recollection: The Cuban Mistle Crisis, My Lai Massacre, Abu Ghraib, 9/11, Weapons of Mass Destruction, School Shootings, the destruction of the Earth.
Sometimes all we can do is hold our breath in the unknown horror, and in the midst hope, pray, share our wealth, cry out our revulsion and helplessness, and stand for justice. Does any of this help? I don’t know. As we encounter the dark side of our collective nature, this is the time when we must trust that the God of love is greater than the destruction. The Jews believe that God acts in history, and my prayer is that this happens.
The ducklings made it across the freeway with the help of Cal-Trans and the Highway Patrol. My hope is that the end of the conflict will be soon, that the Palestinians and Israelis will find new homes where they can live adjacent to and with respectfully of each other, and where their leaders will care about their mutual well-being. I am waiting to exhale, but it may be a long time because this isn’t about Ducks.