If you look carefully at the featured image for this post, you will see a mother duck. Nestled among the flowers, just to her left, are her three…four ducklings.
I’m not by a lake, by any major water source. I was at the corner of Disney World’s, Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, at the cafeteria for Casey at the Bat. The Girl and I were eating an over-priced lunch; we both had huge piles of french fries. I had a hot dog. She had corn dog nuggets.
We were in the most magical place on Earth eating the most mundane foods on Earth.
It’s okay. We were hungry.
People were everywhere. Despite my best research and best-made plans, despite all of my hard work, the park was filled, just saturated with people. I had spent time on travel and tourist websites that talked about how saturated the different Disney parks were at the time when the Girl and I were looking at traveling.
So, during our Spring Break, we headed south. Along with a slew of other people so much so that the Magic Kingdom was just crawling with people and the Girl and I rode on..oh..four rides.
We quickly understood that the day was not going to be a memorable day for rides. This was going to be a day of just having fun even if we weren’t going in circles or up and down major hills and being tossed around from side to side. This was going to be a day of finding magic within one another and seeing the world through the wonderful tapestry that can only be found at the Magic Kingdom.
So, we’re standing at a table, eating our lunch. We were both shifting our feet, trying to ease our aching feet while distractedly eating and staring at the people surrounding us.
And then, coming down the walkway was a woman wearing what appeared to be scrubs. Her shirt was comprised of two panels, one golden yellow, the other white. She was smiling to herself, her eyes focused on the ground ahead of her. Every step she took was slow, measured, deliberate, and I glanced down at what she must have been looking at.
The crowd parted and I suddenly saw the mother duck, the ducklings. The mother duck waddled with obvious intent; she wanted to get away from the crowds but had to move through the crowds to find wherever it was she wanted to go. Behind her, darting in quick movements were the ducklings. And behind them, the Disney cast member, the smiling woman wearing a shirt that reminded me of scrubs.
The crowd parted for the mother ducker, her brood, and their protector. It was obvious that the cast member was protecting the family of ducks from being hurt by a well-meaning but ignorant guest. And given the amount of children darting around, shrieking with laughter at the ducks, and even the adults who were stretching out their hands and pointing in wonder at the small family, I could see why the cast member was so important.
She was an Earth-bound guardian angel. Sure, for a family of ducks. Mallard ducks. Nothing special in the global species spectrum. It’s not like they’re endangered, unless you count walking down the streets of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom as putting one’s life in danger and then, you’re right.
But they were in danger. They had they’re Disney protector and I knew that no one was going to disturb the mother and her babies as they crawled through the fence and started nibbling through the garden of spring decorative flowers.
Once they were beyond the border of the fence, the cast member stopped, watched the family as they went beyond arm’s reach and deeper into the flowers, and then quietly walked away.
I wanted to say something, call out to her that I saw her and her possibly hundred steps of compassion.
Of all of my memories of Disney World, this one has stood out to me.
Yeah, Disney World is a bit over-priced. A 20 ounce bottle of water costing me nearly four dollars is over-priced. The amount of money they make from merchandise is almost nauseating, especially given how they keep on putting out the same bit of merchandise over and over with just a minor alteration to the original formula.
But it works because the magic keeps on getting recycled and I keep on driving hours and hours southwards on a pilgrimage to a magical place where I can adult and child at the same time.
Where I can watch a woman in a golden yellow and white shirt walk behind a small family of ducks for nothing more than to make sure that no one hurt them.
I love the compassion of Disney World. I love that no matter what happens, they really do want to keep a sense of joy and happiness for as many people as possible.
The police officer who checked my bag mentioned to my daughter that she should write her name and address in her autograph album. Because if she lost it, it would be sent to her. And if she lost it by the characters, they and their friends would likely sign it before it was sent to my daughter.
So even if she lost her memories, they would be found and returned to my precious daughter. My precious daughter who still dreams about princesses and magic and wants to grow up and wants to be a girl all at the same time.
A hundred steps of compassion. And the ducks came close enough to my daughter and me that we fed them our french fries, even though the signs said not to feed the birds or the ducks. I don’t know.
I figured that Mary Poppins had asked us to help “feed the birds” and she was at Disney World that day and she liked my daughter. And Mary Poppins was all about compassion.
So if Mary Poppins wants me to “feed the birds,” why can’t I feed the ducks?