Last week, I wrote about an “odd duck” named Dr. Ray. The point of the post was that even an odd duck needs a flock to fly in and, in some way, we are all odd ducks, since each one of us is divinely and uniquely created. I also asked if some of you would like to sign up to join the “ODD DUCK FLOTILLA.” I am pleased to report that the flock has multiplied and been lifted up as if soaring on a pair of duck’s wings. Welcome aboard!
Life lessons, courtesy of Dr. Ray, continued after his place in our flock was assured. As time waddled along, Dr. Ray began to call me weekly to check in. His outreach was heart-touching, because he called to find out if I was OK or if I needed anything. It was never about HIM. It was always about ME. Dr. Ray’s weekly calls were a bird of a different feather, because most of the calls I receive on a daily basis are the exact inverse in their intent.
Dr. Ray’s calls were at the heart of his mission in life. He may have been a duck out of water in relating to the masses of humanity, but he easily paddled around in his small pond taking care of his pastor and a flock-mate or two! To further this mission, since Dr. Ray had no close relatives, he invited my family to his house every year for Christmas cookies and apple cider. He also gave each of us a thoughtful stocking stuffer. Since Dr. Ray was so kind to us, we began to invite him as well as Custodian Jim, who also had no family, to Thanksgiving dinner. For the next couple of years, they joined our family, Custodian Jim wearing a worn and overly large suit coat and Dr. Ray in his white suit, red shirt and black cowboy boots. Even though none of us cared for it, Dr. Ray always brought a freshly baked Mince pie to share.
As my ducklings entered the wonders of adolescence, I thought perhaps we should reserve Thanksgiving dinner for family ONLY. A few weeks before Turkey Day, I suggested to my flock that we not invite Dr. Ray and Custodian Jim for Thanksgiving dinner. There was a stunned silence. Then, my daughter stared me down and said with a don’t-mess-with-me intensity, “But Dad, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Mr. Jim and Dr. Ray.” My son nodded his head in total agreement. Instantly, Dr. Ray ceased to be annoying, odd or funny to me…FOREVER. I grasped what my daughter already knew, that although Dr. Ray led with a humble, quiet, and sometimes awkward caring, Dr. Ray loved us with an “uncommon” love. Dr. Ray’s gift of love could easily have been left unopened, for he gave it with no fanfare and no expectation of anything in return.
I flushed my clearly misguided disinvite down the drain and, the next day, invitations went forth so as to give Dr. Ray plenty of time to bake his Mince pie and Custodian Jim to spruce up his oversized suit coat.
Most of the people in my spiritual community did not see the beauty of Dr. Ray’s gift. They thought he acted like a Catholic and that he was a bit odd or off his rocker, especially on Sunday mornings when he doubled over in a formal bow to me. But I accepted his gift and, from the day my kids insisted that Dr. Ray have a seat at our Thanksgiving table, whenever he bowed to me, I bowed back. It was the best (ONLY?) way to acknowledge his love and his gift.
When we feel invisible, unnoticed, unappreciated, funny, different or odd and, even if we feel the inverse, let’s bow to the truth that our Eternal One implanted in us an incredible beauty and goodness. This divine stocking stuffer is not ours to lose; it is only ours to acknowledge and embrace.
A couple of thousand years ago, a funky, somewhat weird and odd-duck-of-a-guy named Jesus extended an open invitation to all of humanity: We are all invited, especially outcasts, outsiders and the bakers of Mince pie, to pull up a chair to God’s table. Seats are forever available. RSVPHappy Thanksgiving!
John Holt, Cotuit, MA