I had a Robert McCloskey Make way for Ducklings moment as I drove through Annville on my way to a meeting. A mother duck and her ducklings, little things, perhaps their first trip across town, were trying to cross the street. The whole world came rumbling to a stop, even the huge tractor trailer halted for these babies to pass. People on the sidewalk stopped to watch. “Make way for ducklings.” A young mother parked her baby stroller, with her kids watching from the sidewalk, stepped into traffic to herd these little ducks to safety. Kudos to the woman willing to stop and care. Yet, “making way” is messy. She ran behind the ducklings, shooing them with her arms to hurry them across to “make way” for traffic. Of course this frightened Mother duck, who turned with alarm to see who was encroaching on her babies. When they finally made it to the woman’s directed point, the next barrier emerged into view. There was no curb cut. Mother duck easily jumped the height and was safely on the sidewalk, but the babies danced at the bottom, no way to scale that height, they were barely out of the nest. The human mother saw that all her efforts to help the ducklings get off of the road were blocked. She ran back to them, reached down, scooped them up with her hands as a chair lift, and placed them onto the curb, then ran back to her own children watching from the side. With the street cleared, vehicles began to move again.
I drove on to my meeting in Lititz thinking about “making way” for others. It can be beautiful life giving work when we can see something new emerge where before there was only longing, or perhaps pain and distress. It can also be complex and messy work filled with uncertainty. At times it is precarious. I like the language though of “making way” because it reminds me that I am not the author or creator of something. I am simply aware of how I might participate in clearing and opening the way. I think of John the Baptist who was “making way” for Jesus. The need for a path to be cleared, a stage to be set, for traffic to stop and halt and wait for the one that is coming.
Making way for another requires something of me. First, what are my motives to engage in this space? Am I making way for the other, or am I really making way for my agenda through the other? While both what I need and the need of the other co-exist within my motivational world, it is important to consider the driver behind my urge. Increased self awareness decreases the risk that I will injure the other through my actions.
Secondly, what are the possible consequences of my making way for the other? At times, it is life giving as I participate in the growth process of the other’s life. It can also be intrusive and traumatic if I take over to control the outcome or live my needs through the other person. When I “do for” the other person, I may be inhibiting their own growth and development. When I “join with” the other, I am more likely to keep space for each of our contributions to one another’s life, a space where we are each part of the other’s becoming, the space where God dwells.
Mother duck and her safe of ducklings fell back into formation as they processed on their journey. I continue to ponder the moment I participated in that day and the multifaceted meaning of “making way” for another.