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Just dropping by ... The ugly ducklings of our day

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 June 2019

When I was young, I lived on a ranch where we had all kinds of animals. Chickens were plentiful, and I gathered eggs and have seen new baby chicks. Sometimes a goose egg was placed under a setting hen to hatch, so I believed the Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen when I first heard his tale of “The Ugly Duckling.”

Wikipedia gives a concise and well-written synopsis of the plot of the story:



A mother duck’s eggs hatch. One of the little birds is perceived by the other birds and animals on the farm as an ugly little creature and suffers much verbal and physical abuse from them. He wanders sadly from the barnyard and lives with wild ducks and geese until hunters slaughter the flocks. He finds a home with an old woman, but her cat and hen tease and taunt him mercilessly, and once again he sets off alone.

The duckling sees a flock of migrating wild swans. He is delighted and excited, but he cannot join them for he is too young and cannot fly. Winter arrives. A farmer finds and carries the freezing little duckling 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, mostly hiding in a cave on the lake that partly freezes over. When spring arrives, a flock of swans descends on the lake.

The ugly duckling, now having fully grown and matured, is unable to endure a life of solitude and hardship any more and decides to throw himself at the flock of swans, deciding that it is better to be killed by such beautiful birds than to live a life of ugliness and misery. He is shocked when the swans welcome and accept him, only to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he has grown into one of them. The flock takes to the air, and the now-beautiful swan spreads his gorgeous large wings and takes flight with the rest of his new, kind family.

This story touches the hearts of many readers because it is an archetype of humanity. We often feel we do not fit in with others. We feel like the gray goose in a crowd of fluffy, yellow, perfect ducklings who seem to have it all together. This is especially true when we reach our teen years. Perhaps because so many changes are taking place in our bodies, and we are becoming aware of our peers for the first time, we ridicule ourselves and, because of our own insecurities, ridicule others.


But it doesn’t altogether go away even when we reach adulthood because we look in the mirror, check in with the bathroom scales or the latest fashion magazine and, like the queen in “Snow White,” ask “Who’s the fairest one of all?” Sadly, we determine, “It’s not me.” We see every wrinkle and bulge and compare it with the air-brushed beauty on the cover of the mythical magazine Happiness in a Jar. We determine erroneously that if we use this face cream, this brand of makeup, follow that diet, eat this herb or drink this potion, we will miraculously resemble the willowy beauty that stares at us from every TV show and every magazine display we pass in the grocery store.

There is a growing problem with this trend. Discontent, depression, bullying and suicide are on the rise. We can hardly scroll through social media without reading some heart-rending story about someone who is abused, ridiculed, bullied or has taken his or her own life because they see themselves as a loser. The other day, I was appalled to see a man holding a sign calling women fat pigs. He was playing into a mindset that there is some unwritten law governing body types and beauty. I can imagine what that sign did to the heart of a struggling teen who eats because of a disorder or unseen pain.

We are losing wondrous truths as we systematically remove God from our society and, in the process, we are losing our true identity. The Bible, speaking of all humanity, says:

“Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands.”
—Hebrews 2:7 KJV

We are losing the knowledge of our divine heritage. It is as if we are being placed in the nest of a stranger to be hatched and nurtured by a surrogate mother who has no idea who we really are. Our surrogate can only see the gray-goose exterior and not the beautiful swan that is growing inside. Like the ugly duckling, we are left to wander through life with a false impression of our purpose and direction. We are forced to allow others to dictate our worth because we know nothing of a God who is our Father and in whose image we are created.

Somehow, we have forgotten that every human on the face of the earth is different and everyone is valuable. Og Mandino wrote in his book The Greatest Salesman:


I am nature’s greatest miracle. I am rare, and there is value in all rarity; therefore, I am valuable. I am the end product of thousands of years of evolution; therefore, I am better equipped in both mind and body than all the emperors and wise men who preceded me … Since the beginning of time, never has there been another with my mind, my heart, my eyes, my ears, my hands, my hair, my mouth. None that came before, none that live today, and none that come tomorrow can walk and talk and move and think exactly like me. All men are my brothers, yet I am different from each. I am a unique creature … None can duplicate my brush strokes, none can duplicate my chisel marks, none can duplicate my handwriting, none can produce my child,”
—The Greatest Salesman, Og Mandino, Bantam Books, New York, N.Y., 1968

In our world, we place value on things for which we pay a high price. We value our gold because it is not easy to come by. We pay a high price for diamonds because they are difficult to obtain. Children become more valuable as parents sacrifice for their welfare and comfort. To show the value Jesus placed on us, He sacrificed His life by dying on the cross for every human being. He individually paid the price for everyone. Not just for the young and beautiful ducklings with the perfect yellow fuzz. He died for every awkward grey goose and every discontented queen.

He even died for the bullies holding disgraceful signs. He shed precious blood for the Hitlers of the world and for the terrorists. His love was all-encompassing. It is hard to ponder that kind of love without feeling the awesome worth He placed on the human soul. The Lord said of His sacrifice:

“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”
—Isaiah 49:16 KJV

How can our children remember the sacrifice that was so magnanimously given if they never hear about it and are only allowed to see the trappings of the world continually before their eyes? How can they ever see their great worth if the mirror they hold up is in the image of the world? We must help our children follow Isaiah’s advice:

“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged … For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”
—Isaiah 51:1, 3 KJV

Only through recognizing our divine heritage can we, like the ugly duckling, ever hope to find peace. We must see our divine parentage as a reality, and then we will recognize the divinity in our brothers and sisters. We can only find that in the teachings of Jesus Christ.  end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.