How to Become a Hero c.j. hayden
   How to Become a Hero
   You Are the Champion the World Is Waiting For

   C.J. Hayden, MCC

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Is there a heron in your pond? 

One of the things I love about living right next to Golden Gate Park is that minutes from my front door is another world. I walk past Kezar Stadium, the carousel at the Children's Playground, the lawn bowling greens, and the National AIDS Memorial Grove, and in ten minutes I can be at the Lily Pond. On weekdays before and after tourist season, the Lily Pond is a quiet place with few visitors. Turtles sun themselves on the far bank, and ducks swim close to the near shore looking for a handout of breadcrumbs.

On a recent afternoon when I was taking a much-needed break from finalizing the manuscript for my new book, I strolled to the Lily Pond. A middle school-aged group of boys were standing on the shore with their teacher. The full attention of the boys was on the ducks, swimming close to the near shore and quacking loudly. The teacher was focused only on the boys, trying to point out some of the natural wonders of the spot while preventing them from throwing rocks into the water.

None of them saw what I did. At the far edge of the pond, quietly standing in the lilies, was a great blue heron, serene and majestic. It was a magnificent sight here in the middle of the city and steps away from the heavy traffic on Lincoln Blvd. I spoke to a couple of the boys who were near me and pointed to the giant bird, wanting them to see it. But all the boys could see and hear were the ducks, quacking insistently at their feet. Finally, I got the teacher's attention, which was not an easy task, given the rambunctiousness of the boys.

When he at last saw the heron, his jaw dropped. He gathered the boys around and began telling them all about its feeding habits and what a special treat it was to see one here. The boys were fascinated; they stopped throwing rocks. Just then, the heron took off, spreading its huge wings and making its distinctive "kraak" cry. The teacher snapped a photo of the bird in flight.

Isn't it just like us humans to be completely focused on the quacking ducks at our feet? There they are, noisy and demanding -- tasks, responsibilities, deadlines, and obligations. They consume all our attention and keep our eyes and minds on what is immediately in front of us. But if we stop for a moment and lift our eyes, something we least expect may be right there waiting for us. It may be a learning opportunity, a moment of inspiration, or the exact thing we have been looking for all along.

But to see it, you have to ignore the quacking ducks.


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