Last month a stunning photo of a mother duck leading 76 ducklings across the waters was shared all over the internet. All the cute images you’ve ever seen of a mother duck walking across the street with her ducklings faithfully plodding behind her in tow – magnified 76 times. The duck is a common merganser, and that species has a habit called creching. The duck that knows the most of a family takes all the baby ducks for a season and forms a creche. It makes sense as the matriarch duck knows where the food is, where the predators are, and how to raise the babies. The creches can become as large as 40 – but 76 is a new record.
When I think of the word compassion, I think of creching. An invitation to the world: you’re not my child, but we belong together. Let’s swim together. Let’s find the best food and the safest places to rest. Let’s be a family, at least for a season. And when you’re ready to fly off, don’t forget to pass on all you know to the next group.
If you want an objective standard of compassion, maybe you could compare yourself to this duck. Who are the 76 people I am compassionate to, even though I have no reason for it? Who am I teaching about the safe places, the good food? With whom am I swimming? Who are the 75 others in my creche, and who am I learning from right now, even though they don’t have to teach me anything?
Maybe it’s silly to compare ourselves to ducks. It’s far sillier that we pretend that we aren’t connected, or that there is no way we could be compassionate to at least 76 other people. May the spirit of a loving duck carry you forward!