Dec 31

Helen Tyte

Rubber Ducks

Today we celebrated New Year’s Eve and the joint East End service at St. Mark’s Church, but we also celebrated my father’s birthday. Late in the night on 31st December 1942 the midwife tending to my grandmother tried her hardest to delay the baby’s birth, so that she would have the honour of welcoming the first baby born in 1943. It was not to be, and Dad ended up being the last baby to arrive in 1942.

My parents live in Lyme Regis, and the town celebrates the day with an annual duck race, although I think it’s the New Year they’re celebrating, rather than my father’s special day…

Before the event the duck race committee accepts bets as to which ducks will be the fastest. Each duck bet costs £1 and the proceeds go to charity. They take 2000 numbered rubber ducks and empty them from large bags into the River Lim. They swim with the water all the way to the river mouth where it meets the sea. At the mouth of the river they are greeted by the Lyme Regis lifeboat crew, who scoop them up and reveal which came first, second and third, and whoever placed bets on these ducks will win prizes.

Sometimes I think that the race is a little unfair. Some of the ducks will be last out of the bags, and therefore won’t start their journeys at the same time. Large rocks get in the way of a few and slow them down. Eddies take some ducks to the sides where they get caught up in the weeds. Some lucky ducks get caught by the current and are swept along really quickly. 

It’s a little bit like our own journeys with Christ. Some of us may have had a head start, maybe our parents were believers and we were introduced to Christianity from birth. Maybe we went to Sunday School, or gave our lives to Christ at university, or later as adults. Maybe we’re still thinking things through. To God, it doesn’t matter when our journey began. We are all moving in the same direction with Him. In our lives we will also have rocks, currents and eddies that affect our journey. Times of joy, and times of trial. But God’s river still flows, and during the tough times we can be still and simply allow his love to flow around us. 

Each of the rubber ducks in the race is different, some have blue or green painted beaks, some orange. Some are slightly bigger, some have scars from previous races, or are not quite perfect. But all are welcomed by the river in the same way. 

One thing that I love about the duck race is that not a single one of the ducks is left behind. They are counted in and recorded as being safely ‘home’. The Lyme Regis Lifeboat Crew brave the chilly river and search diligently for missing ducks, even wading upstream to free those who may have been snagged up on the weeds at the sides. The last duck home also wins a prize.

Yes, in the New Year’s Eve duck race there are winners, but our lives are not a race. I want to be one of the ducks that takes its time getting to the finishing line, and enjoys all the sights the river has to offer on the way! 

It has become a tradition that I place a small bet on ducks for my father’s birthday. It won’t matter to him if they win or not, but he will enjoy watching them all take part in the race.

Tim Rogers Jan 1 8:38am

Beautiful Helen.

What a wonderful reflection you have provided.

Lisa-Dawn Johnston Jan 2 11:48am

This story reminded me of the Parable of the Vineyard workers (Matthew 20:1-16) No matter when you start with, or come to, or open your heart to God, the welcome is the same!

I love where you wrote that even during tough times,  God’s river still flows and we can be still and let God’s love flow around us. I imagine God’s love carrying us during those times, and in all times.

I also love that the ducks simply float… no effort is required on their part, just as God doesn’t require us to “do good works” to be his child. Just enter the river of his love!

I saw myself (and everyone else) in the diversity of the ducks … no matter our scars, our colours, or our sizes, God’s love - the river - accepted us all the same…🙏🏾

And what welled the tears in my eyes was the search and gathering of the lost ducks…each numbered and recorded, and none left behind. Lovingly gathered and taken home. God bless you… Each time I look at my Rubber Duck, I hope it reminds me of this story, and of God’s love xxx

BTW- we used to have Rubber Duck races in St George’s!


Lisa-Dawn Johnston Jan 2 19:04pm

My duck… to remind me…

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