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Salmon Point beach and campground in Bridgton, Maine on that early summer morning was idyllic, with maroon picnic tables staggered along the lake’s edge and sand bridging the distance. A simplistic playground with a swing set and some monkey bars sat in the grass just beyond the tables. As I searched for a playmate, I noticed a flock of ducks running in chaos from a redheaded boy close at their heels- as if death itself chased behind them. I assumed he just wanted the ducks away from his area. As soon as I saw the first rock in his hand, I leapt to my feet. I sprinted as fast as my small legs could carry me, pebbly rocks numbing my feet.
Witnessing the fear etched onto the faces of the ducks nearby, I was determined to make him stop somehow. I skidded to halt just before crashing into his bent body. He was searching for more rocks.
“Leave the ducks alone!” I shouted. He stood and gazed at me, my feet covered in wet sand, my lungs working hard, my head just clearing his shoulders. Laughing, he turned the rocks over in his hands. He spun and threw one rock, sending it cutting through the air towards some resting ducks. I held my breath, anger surging through me. The rock hit an oak tree. I exhaled. I had decided to let it go and was about to leave when his voice came from behind me: “They’re just some stupid ducks.” I swung my head around. The words were barely out of his mouth when his eyes locked on a young, brown-feathered duck waddling between us. Before I could react, he kicked the duck. Seething with rage, I closed the feathery distance between us in three steps and shoved him as hard as I could. Disbelief crossed both of our faces as he hit the ground, and I stood in shock. A woman came running towards us, my mother at her heels.
After a lengthy discussion, I was chastised and asked to apologize, which I refused to do. I accepted my punishment of no ice cream after dinner. My parents quickly dubbed the interaction the “duck incident” and made light of it at family gatherings. But what some deemed a playground disagreement, I held onto as the moment I became aware of injustice in the world and decided to resist it. At 6, it was the ducks. At 9, the new girl who was being bullied. At 14, the frogs my biology class dissected. I did not win all the time. In fact, in the traditional sense, I lost most of the time and there were consequences to my actions more serious than not getting ice cream.
There were perceived personal injustices I faced as well. When I was 13, my parents divorced. Throughout high school, I had to forgo after school activities to be home for my little sister. Pushing a red-headed duck tormenter could no longer fix these instances of unfairness. Eventually, I had to learn some injustices cannot be fought regardless of how much I railed against them. I learned to pick my battles. So I pushed forward plastic bag bans and attended protests for the rights of minorities. I volunteered at animal shelters and VFW posts. In my junior year, I realized my love of the earth and passion for protecting it could be combined with my growing fascination with politics. Looking forward, I plan to actively engage in a college that will help me further my dream of becoming an environmental lawyer, and help me give a voice to the voiceless- one duck at a time.
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