March 30, 2012
By Jeanne Hunt
Quack! Quack! Quack! As I was rushing to work one Monday morning, life was brought to a sudden halt by traffic: car after car waiting to move; the freeway was frozen. It was a standstill, and there seemed no hope of movement.
My first reaction was to get mad at God: “How dare you stop my busy life with these shenanigans! I have places to go, people to see, and you are making me sit here and do nothing.” God did not answer. There was just profound silence from the Almighty.
Then I noticed something: A recent rain had produced an overflow pond in the drainage ditch alongside the highway. There, in the middle of this most temporary pond, a duck was swimming around. The duck acted like this was its home. As if it had been born and raised in this little oasis. It was so content, just swimming, splashing, quacking and thoroughly enjoying the moment.
I felt an urge to inform the duck that this pond was transitory. The duck had better get on the move because this pond was a momentary pleasure. It had better fly to a more permanent water hole. But then, I reconsidered. After all, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. The duck had no idea that living between two superhighways in a drainage ditch was not paradise. Why should I burst its bubble? Not to mention that getting out of my car to talk to a duck might be the final straw in the case against my sanity!
It was then that I realized I needed to be more like that duck. It was in a pond, and I was in a traffic jam. The only difference between the two of us was water vs. concrete. The duck had chosen the higher path. The duck was having the time of its life while I fumed and fussed over being held up, getting behind on work, missing my 8:00 a.m. meeting….
The duck, with a brain the size of a pea, got it, while I couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that I have only this moment to live. What is required of my soul is to totally savor all that this present moment has to offer me: the beauty of the morning sky, the sound of Debussy on the radio, the sparkle of chrome and many splendored colored bumpers reflecting the sunlight…. The need to be mindful of the present in the manner of Brother or Sister Duck was my epiphany.
This isn’t new territory for those of us who live with the Divine One. The Jesuits are famous for saying, “Age quod agis,” which means “Do what you are doing.” Maybe that was a Jesuit duck who understood that its transitory pond was exactly where it needed to be and to soak it in.
For us, the message has much deeper consequences: When we divest ourselves of all our preoccupations with past and future shoulds, woulds and oughtas and surrender to the work and grace of the present, the scales fall from our eyes, we hear God’s voice and we begin to get in step with the divine rhythm of life.
This total immersion in the moment requires letting go of our agendas for God’s agenda. In the simplest terms, it is the virtue of poverty at its best. We choose not to own our time. When we can allow God to own what we are doing right now and follow His lead, we start to be transformed into His living presence.
The first thing I noticed after the “duck incident” is that every moment is meant to speak to our souls. Nothing is worthless or without grace to give. As I slow down and savor someone’s smile, the first sip of morning coffee, the comments of a news commentator, etc., I realize that all is gift and it is orchestrated by God. God’s divine touch is nothing less than spectacular. It is as if God is weaving a beautiful tapestry given to us in which we are invited to enter the warp and weave.
Something else I just realized: God did talk back to me that Monday morning. He simply said, “Quack! Quack! Quack!”
Hunt is a nationally recognized catechetical leader and author.