Dad, if I shoot a duck, can I play with the decoys?

“Dad, if I shoot a duck, can I play with the decoys?”

12 year-old Alyssa has no interest in shooting ducks. According to her older sister, she’s had a thing for ducks all of her life. But sitting home while dad and sis were spending the weekend participating in the fourth annual Henry County Waterfowl Clinic was unacceptable. So she sat through the class, jacket hood pulled up as far over her face as she could get it, and responded to instructors in a tiny voice.

Despite her shyness, she passed the exam and shot at clay birds Saturday afternoon. She suffered getting up before sunrise, and endured the ATV ride in driving rain to the duck blind. Though scores of ducks flew all around, she spent most of the next three hours asleep.

When it was time to close down, she got to experience walking in waders, knee-deep in muddy water to pick up colorful plastic life-size duck decoys from in front of the blind. Although her mentors encouraged her to stay under cover from the rain, they couldn’t suppress her enthusiasm for participating in a way that was most meaningful to her.

I told her, truth be known, that playing with the decoys was the real reason we old guys duck hunt, but we harvest a few real ones so that people won’t make fun of us. She impressed me as being pretty sharp.  I don’t think she bought it.

The motivation to volunteer hours for a not-for-profit does not come from spending time in meetings, creating budgets or developing strategic plans. The motivation comes from sharing something personally meaningful with someone eager to learn. When someone who is not eager to learn finds something they like, it’s equally fun.

Participating as a member of a clinic team really charges me up. It’s like being a kid again, planning and executing the big campout. Everyone gets excited, pitches-in to do their part. In many ways, this whole year has been like that for the Federation. Whether it’s the mentor that runs out to buy six camo masks for the kids in the clinic or the family trust that sends a generous donation, these acts of thoughtful support kindles feelings of overwhelming appreciation.

I don’t know that Alyssa will become a hunter but I’m sure she will not forget that day in the duck blind with dad and big sis, the two mentors, the driving rain, the hundreds of ducks all around and wading in the water to play with the decoys.

After the holidays, I’m going to enjoy going outside in my waders to set out a nice pattern of decoys. And just so nobody makes fun of me playing in the water with my decoys I guess I’d better take my shotgun, too!

Wishing you all a warm, comfortable and happy holiday!