Geese and GrandkidsWhen my daughter was little we would go to a little lake nearby and feed the ducks. We'd crest the hill, the ducks would see us, and paddle, quacking madly, toward the little fishing pier we fed them from. We never tired of throwing, dropping or sometimes even hand feeding them pieces of bread. Ducks are fun. Geese are a different animal. For one thing they seem to be angry all the time. For another they were bigger than my daughter. One of them, one day, caught us both off guard and charged her to get the piece of bread she held in her hand. She ran away scared, and I chased that goose away, scolding him about his treatment of my daughter. While it made me more wary of geese, that incident didn't stop our fun feeding the ducks. We fed the ducks for another few years until she grew up, went off to high school and college and moved away. She now has family of her own. I once explained to her one of my moral principles; the person who has more power should generally give way to the person or thing who doesn't. You don't shove people around just because you can. It applies to the goose (just because it's bigger doesn't give it the right to chase my daughter around), and it applies to me (when I'm in a car, I have no right to run down pedestrians, even if they are not in the crosswalk). It doesn't apply to horses on a trail but that's because they are scaredy cats and don't know they are bigger than bicycles or pedestrians. What brought this to mind was another goose. This time we had taken the grandchildren to feed the ducks. The goose threatened, not my granddaughter or grandson, but a little boy who was feeding the ducks beside them. He cried and my reaction was as strong as it had been many years before. I stood in front of the goose and lectured it about moral principles. He hissed at me and then waddled away. The boy's parents looked at me a little strangely; they were appreciative that I'd stood up for their little boy, but weren't entirely sure that lecturing the goose was the best way to handle it. I'm used to being misunderstood, by people and by geese; I generally get away with it because my motives are usually good. The goose can't, of course, understand moral principles. Even ducks have their pecking order; it's blatantly obvious: when you're feeding them, the larger ones chase the smaller ones away. It's only we humans who have invented moral principles and we demonstrate them everyday. I don't know if my geese demonstration influenced my daughter; I never asked her. I don't know if it affected the grandkids or the little boy. I only know that I feel better when I act that way.
10 Sep 2009
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