By Cady Inabinett, Editor in chief
This is a Thanksgiving letter, it just might take me a minute to get there.
I spent the past summer interning in Washington, D.C., and I spent a lot of my time there looking at birds. Pigeons, starlings, finches and geese were just a few of the myriad birds I would see on my walks around the city. But my favorites, by far, were the ducks.
Since March, I’ve been a bit hyper-focused on ducks, when my mother, who works at an elementary school, found a small, lavender plastic duck on the ground on her campus and gave it to me. Since then, I’ve been carrying that duck around with me in my pocket as a good luck charm and calling it my lucky duck. When I have a test or presentation in class, when I’m stressed about something or when I just want things to go my way, I make sure I have my duck in my pocket and I’m ready to go.
The sense of good luck that my duck figurine gives to me has now expanded to any and all ducks as well. All other duck figurines are good luck charms too. My pair of socks with ducks printed on them are now my lucky socks. And seeing a real life, living duck is the greatest omen one could ever hope to receive.
If you are ever in Washington, D.C., and you want to do some duck watching, there are many good spots. Any place along the Potomac, for instance, offers prime duck viewing opportunities, but I highly recommend the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial. If you’re having a museum day, and you want to pencil in some quick duck-viewing time, the water feature outside of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian usually has a duck or two swimming in it.
But, hands-down the best spot for duck lovers in Washington, D.C. is the Bird House at the Smithsonian National Zoo. The Bird House is an indoor exhibit for—you’ll never guess—birds split into three biome-based rooms: the Delaware Bay, a coffee farm and, my personal favorite, the prairie pothole—or as I like to call it, the duck room.
Immediately after entering the duck room, visitors are greeted with a sign that reads “Be Kind to Ducks.” The sign is unremarkable, just listing the rules of the exhibit, but that phrase has continued to rattle around in my head since my first visit to the zoo.
I guess what stood out to me from the phrase “Be Kind to Ducks” is its lack of discernment in where we aim our kindness. We think of kindness, I think, as something very humanistic—we can choose to be kind to other people and other people can choose to be kind to us—but rarely do I think we talk about kindness as a natural, almost innate act.
“Be Kind to Ducks.” This phrase seems to disrupt the notion that kindness is so humanistic that it almost becomes calculated by pointing out that you can be kind to the world around you—even to its smaller denizens, like ducks. And thinking about being kind to the world around you made me wonder: can the world be kind back to you? I found my answer to be yes, it certainly can be. My philosophy is that we live in a caring universe. I can be kind, and the universe will be kind back to me.
If you don’t think the world around you is kind, let me ask you: have you ever stepped outside on a pleasantly sunny day? Have you ever tended a garden and watched as the plants grow from seedlings to producing a bountiful harvest? Personally, I feel as though I see kindness in the world so often. I see it whenever I go on a walk or a hike and take the time to appreciate the scenery. Perhaps it’s a bit anthropocentric, but sometimes it feels like ducks exist just to remind me that universe is on my side—that I’ll always have at least a little bit of luck.
Now let’s talk about Thanksgiving. I know the holiday may seem disjointed from everything I’ve written about thus far, but stick with me here.
I think Thanksgiving is always a bit of a weird holiday for many people. Stuck between two fan-favorites, Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving can tend to seem a bit pointless. Like, what’s the big deal about it? So, we’re going to cook a big meal and pretend to get along with one another at dinner just because it’s November? It’s a difficult holiday to get in the right mindset to celebrate, especially when you’re a college student with final exams looming over you in the following weeks. However, like many other things, I’ve found that Thanksgiving becomes an exponentially better holiday when you focus on kindness.
Kindness is everywhere if you look for it. It’s innate and inherent in the world we live in. Thanksgiving, as a holiday, asks us to examine what we are thankful for and appreciate in our lives, so it acts as the perfect holiday to examine the little kindnesses that dot our day-to-day existences. I for one, am thankful for the natural world that surrounds me, reminding me of the beauty of existing. I’m thankful for the kindnesses granted to me by the world and others around me. And, of course, I’m thankful for ducks.
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.