My name is Alan Matthews.* I’m nine years old and have listened to many lessons in church and family home evening. None ever taught me so much about Heavenly Father’s love for me as the lesson I learned through our ducks.
I’m an animal lover. I have a huge collection of small plastic animals from all over the world, and I’ve read nearly every book on animals that our school library has to offer. The fact that I love animals so much is what makes what happened to me so amazing.
My parents, my brothers, and I live in the state of Washington. We have a huge yard with trees, a pond my dad made, and our own little hill. Last spring, my parents surprised us by coming home with two baby ducklings, Samson and Delilah. We raised them in the house until their adult feathers grew in and it warmed up a bit outside. They were cute and cuddly, and we loved to sit and hold them. But once they were old enough to set loose in the backyard, it was pretty hard to catch them when we wanted to hold one.
One day I found myself sitting by the edge of the pond, watching them dive for bugs and bathe themselves. The longer I watched, the more bored I became and the more I wanted to catch one of them to hold. I circled the pond several times, trying to get them to come out of the water. But they knew exactly what I intended and swam away from me. Finally, tired of going in circles, I sat down to try to come up with another idea.
That’s when I came up with what I thought was a foolproof plan. I began to toss small stones into the water beyond the ducks. The splash startled them and made them instinctively swim closer to me. With each stone, I became more confident that I’d soon have a duck to hold. Then the unexpected happened: I looked down to pick up a stone, and there were none left.
Fearful that the ducks would retreat to the other side of the pond, I quickly searched behind me for another rock. I spied one a little way off. Without taking my eyes off the ducks, I grabbed the rock. My fingertips barely had time to feel its smooth edges before I hurled it into the water.
In my hurry, my aim was a little off. Everything would have been fine except that Samson, spooked by my sudden movement, jerked around and headed right into the stone’s path. With a small thud, the rock hit him squarely in the head. For a moment, I sat frozen, shocked at what I’d done and afraid that he’d been badly hurt.
Delilah started beating the water with her wings and screeching at me. Samson jumped out of the water and ran straight across the yard to a little hut we’d built for them. I was relieved that he seemed to be OK, but my heart was beating so hard that I went to lie on my bed for a while.
Two days later the scene came back to haunt me. Mom was out feeding the birds and found Samson nearly drowned at the edge of the pond. Scooping him up and hollering for one of us to get Dad, she rushed Samson into the house. Delilah, who normally set up quite a wail when separated from her mate, followed and stood patiently on the back porch next to the door.
Samson was very cold and could not stand or control his wings very well. Dad wrapped him in towels and put him in a tub under a heat lamp. He showed no sign of improvement after an hour, so Dad brought in Delilah. She nestled right up to Samson.
The next few days, I spent a lot of time by the side of the tub, cleaning up after the ducks and feeding them. I found little comfort in helping them. Everyone tried to guess what had caused Samson’s illness. I felt terrible, knowing what was wrong and that it was my fault.
A week passed. We had seen little change in Samson. It was a warm spring day, and we were all outside enjoying the sunshine. I walked around aimlessly, hitting the ground with a stick that I’d picked up somewhere. I didn’t hear my mother walk up behind me. I jumped as she gently placed her hand on my shoulder.
“Alan, your father felt that I should ask you about Samson.” When I didn’t respond, she continued. “Sometimes we do something we’re not proud of, and it can make us very unhappy inside. It can make us so unhappy that it is like carrying a huge boulder around with us everywhere we go.”
I turned to face her. Tears began to well up in my eyes. I wanted to cry out, “Yes, that’s just how I feel!” but I remained silent.
“When that happens, we need to confide in our Heavenly Father and ask for His forgiveness and for the burden to be removed,” she said.
Finally I mustered up the courage to speak. I asked, “Is that all I have to do?”
“No,” Mother said. “We need to confess our sins, do whatever we can to make the wrong right, and promise that we will never do it again.”
I thought about what she had said. I knew that she was right, and I knew what I had to do. I looked up at her, unable to hold back the tears any longer. “Mom, I hit Samson in the head with a rock. I didn’t mean to hurt him, and I don’t want him to die.”
She pulled me close to her and hugged me tightly. “That surely has been a heavy burden to carry around all this time.”
I nodded. Then, pulling out of her comforting arms, I said, “I need to go to my room for a few minutes.”
She nodded in understanding, and I ran inside.
As I knelt beside my bed, I told Heavenly Father that I’d done something very wrong and that I was very sorry. I explained that despite our efforts, Samson was not getting any better, and I asked Him if He would help make things right. I asked for His forgiveness and promised that I would try to never again do something so careless. Closing in the name of Jesus Christ, I arose, amazed at how much better I felt inside already.
For the first time all week, I joined in the dinner conversation and played with my brothers. I now understood what my mother was saying about the weight, because I felt as light as a feather.
When I awoke the next morning, I hurried to check on the ducks and to get their food and water. As I went around the corner, the first sight that met my eyes was Samson, standing up and preening his feathers! He looked his old self again, and he started quacking for his breakfast. He had been healed! Excitedly I ran to tell my parents the good news. I had been forgiven, and I knew that Heavenly Father had helped make Samson better.
That evening I sat on my bed, writing in my journal:
“I know that I am a child of God, that He hears and answers my prayers, and that even a nine-year-old is important enough for a miracle.”