Ericka sat in the back of the room. When the teacher asked questions, even if Ericka knew the answers, she never raised her hand. She was too shy. Instead, she’d duck her head behind her books to hide.
But today, she couldn’t hide. The teacher came and stood beside her desk.
“You don’t want to be captain for field day?” he asked, looking down at her.
Ericka slid down in her seat. “Not really.”
“But the class voted for you.”
Ericka bit her lower lip. “I’m not good at being in charge. Someone else could do it better.” She looked up. “Please ask Keith or Tara or …”
Mr. Folster patted her shoulder. “OK, we’ll get someone else.”
Ericka sat up straight and watched the hands of the clock tick off the minutes until recess.
Once out the door, her friend Lauri tugged her sleeve. “How come you don’t ever want to be captain?”
Ericka shrugged. “It’s hard for me to tell people what to do.”
“But you’re so good at sports, and the whole class wants you to be our captain.”
“It’s just …”
“Oh, forget it,” Lauri laughed as she ran to the swings. “It’s just like you to want to be invisible.”
Ericka walked over to the swings and sat in the one next to Lauri. She pumped hard, trying to get her toes to touch the leaves of a nearby tree.
Across the playground, some kids were jumping on tires that had been partially buried in the ground to form an obstacle course.
Pump. Pump. Pump. Up she went.
Jump. Jump. Jump. Across the playground, children sprang from one tire to the next.
Then she saw it—a duck. A very upset duck!
She dragged her feet to stop. “Lauri,” she called as her friend swept past on her downward swing. “There’s a duck.”
“Can’t be,” Lauri called back. “Ducks like water, not playgrounds.”
Ericka pointed. “There, by the tires.”
Lauri kept swinging.
Ericka slid off the swing and hurried over to the tires. The kids were still jumping; the duck, flapping its wings, waddled in front of the tires, squawking furiously.
Ericka peeked into the farthest tire. There was a nest with two light green eggs in it.
She held up her hands, motioning for the jumpers to stop. Nothing happened. “Please, Heavenly Father,” she silently prayed, “help me have the courage to help the duck save her nest.”
“Please stop,” she said quietly, “you’re scaring the duck.”
Jump. Jump. “We’re not hurting it.”
Jump. Jump. “Anyhow, it’s just a duck.”
“Just a duck!” Ericka’s voice was no longer soft. Hands on hips, chin thrust forward, she glared at her classmates. “It’s one of God’s creatures, just like you and me. And”—she pointed to the tire—“there are eggs in her nest. That’s why she’s so mad at you.”
The jumpers stopped. They’d never seen Ericka like this. She insisted that everyone move away from the tires, and she asked Mr. Folster, who was on playground duty, to find some way to keep the tires off limits.
Mr. Folster put a wide strip of yellow plastic around the tires. And the art teacher printed a sign: Stay Off—Mallard Nursery.
Each day, when the class checked the nest, there was one new egg. Then, after a few days, the mother duck never left the nest. She just stayed in the tire. The class worried that something was wrong, but Mr. Folster explained that everything was fine. The mother duck was just keeping the eggs warm until they hatched.
At last, there were seven little ducklings. Six were mottled brown with just touches of yellow. But one had a lot more yellow.
“That one is so different,” said Ericka. “Will it always be a different color?”
“No,” Mr. Folster answered. “When the ducklings get older, they’ll all look pretty much the same. That yellowish one, though, reminds me of you.”
“I don’t look like a duck,” Ericka giggled.
“No, but for a short time, you were willing to stand out from the crowd because of something you believed in.”