Be Kind to Your Web-footed Friends

I woke up on Saturday morning with Stars and Stripes Forever stuck in my head. That immediately reminded me of a record full of silly songs I had as a kid. One of them was set to the same tune, and it was called Be Kind to Your Web-footed Friends. So I started singing it, much to the consternation of my cats. I got this far: “Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody’s mother.”

I stopped. That’s not the reason to be kind to a duck. The reason to be kind to a duck is because it’s a living being and is independently deserving of dignity. If the duck had no progeny, she would still be worthy of our kindness.

At church, so often people say things along the lines of “Of course women are important! They’re our wives and mothers. They raise the next generation.” The subtext of that is that because I am no one’s wife and no one’s mother, I must not be important. Be kind; a duck may be somebody’s mother.

I matter and am deserving of kindness because I’m created by God in His image. I will not become more important if I have children. The worth of every soul is already infinite.

When Jesus preached a sermon, a woman in the crowd responded: “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.”
Jesus replied: “Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.”[1]

Mary wasn’t praiseworthy because she gave birth to Jesus. She was praiseworthy because she kept the word of God.

While our relationships with other people are important, they are not the only thing about us that matters. Even someone alone on a desert island without another human soul in sight is still precious to God.

I would re-write the song like this: “Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck is a living being.”

[1] Luke 11:27-28


Trudy is a lawyer living in the southwestern US. She has two cats who allow her to live in their house in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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6 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Amen, Trudy! I sometimes hear people use the same logic by saying, “Don’t objectify or speak lewdly about X. X is someone’s daughter or sister.” But, as you say, people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their relational status. Unfortunately, it seems like sometimes Mormonism’s incessant focus on the family and family roles makes people oblivious (at least rhetorically) to individual worth apart from relational roles.

  2. Allemande Left says:

    In a recent class I took, there was a discussion about loving people, animals, plant life and things FOR THEMSELVES and not for what they can do for you or anyone else. The teacher said this is what it means to love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength; to love God’s creations in the universe Because they exist.
    There is an interesting Short essay illustrating this, Nowhere to Go by Anthony DeMello.
    We can think differently, as you point out.
    Thank you Trudy for bringing this to our attention.

  3. Violadiva says:

    Whenever I hear a man use the justification for treating a woman with respect and kindness because they are “our wives, our daughters, our sisters” (Ala Mitt Romney’s response to the #metoo movement) I’m always struck by the possessiveness – that these women deserve respect because they belong to the man in some way. It’s a gross symptom of benevolent patriarchy.

  4. Ziff says:

    Excellent post, Trudy. I feel like the “be kind to her because she’s somebody’s [insert relationship]” might be a step forward for some men who can’t imagine women as being really people at all. But, as you point out so well, there’s another huge and crucial step for us to respect each other because we’re fellow humans, and not just because of some relationship we have to some other person.

    • Anna says:

      Yes, I have always seen the idea of she is somebody’s (fill in the blank) as a way to get men to see women as human because maybe they see their sister/mother/daughter as fully human. Sort of “how would you like it if someone treated your mother/sister/daughter that way?”

      So, it is an attempt to get men to at least see the woman as they see their mother/sister/daughter, which really is a huge step forward from seeing her as a collection of sexy body parts. It is sort of saying, “dammit, she is human, just like your sister.”

      What is sad is that this statement needs to be said to so many men.

      As to the duck, if you kill the mother duck, her babies also die. So, you are not killing one duck, but five of six ducks. Think about the poor orphaned ducklings. Why deer hunting encourages the killing of bucks, not does

  5. Heather says:

    Trudy I love your perspective. Thank you for pointing out that our value is not relational.

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