Have you heard the story of the ugly duckling?
And do you believe that there are some ugly ducklings in your life?
So many of us go through life with assumptions about other people based simply on their physical appearance.
We shoo people who don’t quite fit into our perception of how they should look.
Also, the media with its glamorising of a certain look or style is so guilty of creating a whole plethora of prejudices.
Yet ultimately, as I have written so often, at the end of the day we are all the same.
We are all striving for the same thing – love, happiness and a fulfilled life – and we are doing the best we can with our current level of awareness, knowledge and understanding.
This is Day 23 of our “28 Day Relationships Adventure (DRA)” in February. You can read the previous 22 articles by following the links at the bottom of this post.
Today I want to talk about the ugly duckling story and why the message of this story is so pertinent and relevant to all our relationships.
Here’s a quick summary of this story from Wiki:-
When the tale begins, a mother duck’s eggs hatch. One of the little birds is perceived by the duck’s neighbours as a homely little creature and suffers much verbal and physical abuse. He wanders sadly from the barnyard and lives with wild ducks and geese until hunters slaughter the flocks. He then finds a home with an old woman but her cat and hen tease him mercilessly and again he sets off on his own. He sees a flock of migrating wild swans; he is delighted and excited but he cannot join them. Winter arrives. A farmer finds and carries the freezing little bird home, but the foundling is frightened by the farmer’s noisy children and flees the house. He spends a miserable winter alone in the outdoors but, when spring arrives, he is welcomed into a flock of beautiful swans for he has matured into one of them.
I also highly recommend that you read the full enchanting tale from Hans Andersen. It will take no more than ten minutes – and you deserve that time out to read a fairy tale!
So the point of this story is that there never was an ugly duckling – it was a swan that was yet to discover his true identity and beauty.
In the same way, all the people around you are the same. No matter what they are like or how life has treated them so far, they are full of their own inner beauty.
Conversely, we can transform “an ugly duckling” with our love, patience and understanding.
Ironically, the ugly duckling story is re-enacted so often in our world where a mentally or physically handicapped child is turned away and put into a home. Or worse still, abandoned.
Ask yourself – when have you ignored or shooed someone who looked funny or was not very bright?
This is the same as the mother duck pushing out the ugly duckling from the nest when she couldn’t take it anymore.
A child ignored or neglected then has to find his or her own beauty and gradually create a new life. Over time, with great love and understanding, healing can eventually take place from all the abuse and insults.
Instead of ignoring and insulting any perceived ugly ducklings in our lives, what we need is more compassion and understanding.
We all have this deep capacity for compassion – we just have to get present to it.
To highlight my point here is a story that has been doing the rounds of the internet for many years. Though I am not sure whether this is exactly what really happened or if at all, it does have a wonderful message for all of us.
It also reminds us of the old adage that you can get everything you want in your life, by helping others get what they want. So do grasp the message about compassion from this story, regardless of whether it is fact or fiction:-
Some time ago, at the Seattle Olympics, nine athletes, all mentally or physically challenged, were standing on the start line for the 100 m race.
The gun fired and the race began. Not everyone was running, but everyone wanted to participate and win.
They ran in threes, a boy tripped and fell, did a few somersaults and started crying.
The other eight heard him crying.
They slowed down and looked behind them.
They stopped and came back… All of them…
A girl with Down’s Syndrome sat down next to him, hugged him and asked, “Feeling better now?”
Then, all nine walked shoulder to shoulder to the finish line.
The whole crowd stood up and applauded. And the applause lasted a very long time…
People who witnessed this still talk about it. Why? Because deep down inside us, we all know that the most important thing in life is much more than winning for ourselves.
The most important thing in this life is to help others to win. Even if that means slowing down and changing our own race.
So which “ugly duckling” can YOU help today?
This story reminds me of a time when many years ago at a wedding party in India I saw a little Down’s Syndrome boy dancing on the floor, splendidly resplendent in a dinner jacket and bow tie. He was a better dancer than me any day, and I later found out that he had won awards for his dancing and music, in competitions for “normal” children.
I went up to him, chatted and made friends. A few minutes later his mother came to me with tears in her eyes and said how much she appreciated me talking to her son, as most people just ignored him.
Maybe this was also a cultural thing, being in India, but whatever it was, it seemed to me the natural thing to do to was to chat to the boy.
So many times, we all hide our true human feelings and we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable and compassionate.
Can you imagine how the world would be a better place if we treated as a swan everyone we met?
Here’s the Daily Exercise for Today:-
For today’s exercise, choose one person who in the past you have neglected because somehow they didn’t meet your expectations of what they should look like.
Spend a few minutes reflecting on this person and all their beautiful points. Then see them as the “swan” that they really are.
Enjoy this exercise – make it fun and meaningful.
image courtesy of Tony the Misfit