Merigian Studios


Rayford Crawford

My name is Rayford Crawford. I lived on Mud Island. I moved to Memphis in the early 1990s. Over the years, I developed a habitual sense of eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep and committing myself to the service of others. I saw everyone as someone who could benefit from the wisdom I’d gained through my experiences. And I didn’t hesitate to get involved whenever possible.

I had no children, and I seldom if ever dated. I saw interactions with others as opportunities to help them, and gave very little value to receiving help from others. Besides, after working all day, exercising, cooking my food from scratch, washing my clothes, and sleeping for a healthy period every night --in my mind there was no time for an intimate relationship.

One morning while jogging by the river, I stumbled upon a group of newly hatched Canada Geese swimming in a straight-line. A slight cool breeze rippled the water. I felt invigorated. Yet, as I watched, I noticed that the last gosling in line was having trouble staying up. In fact, it was barely swimming as it bobbed up and down and swayed to and fro. The other geese seemed oblivious to its struggles. It was clear I had to intervene and save this struggling baby bird. I thought nature would lose big if I didn’t react.

I picked up a large limb that had washed up on the riverbank and tried to reach the chick, as it distanced itself from the shore. As I swung the limb around, I dipped it into the water and tried to scoop the baby bird up in the branches. I tried hard to save the baby goose, but I failed. I got close and it seemed as if the chick wanted to make it on its own. It refused my help.

I stripped down and dove into the water. The water was cold, shockingly cold, as I swam against the strong current and finally reached the baby chick swimming frantically. I grabbed it and pulled it close. It made several sounds, and the mother goose looked around. Spotting me, she quickly led her line of goslings away. As she paddled faster, I realized the cold water had frozen my muscles. I couldn’t move. A profound arctic freeze invaded my perfectly tended body. Even time couldn’t move, as the icy water anchored me twenty-five feet from the shore. I held the gosling because I could not let go of it.

The chill of death moved from my hands and feet into the center of my body. I experienced doom as I tried to save a drowning baby goose. Glancing at the shore, I realized people were screaming for me to swim. I couldn’t. I couldn’t move at all. Voices faded as I slipped beneath the surface -- the baby goose trapped in my hands. An unexpected warm feeling overcame me as grim reality sank in; I had drowned, as well as the baby goose I planned on saving. What began as a heroic deed turned out to be a tragedy in the first order.

As my life-less body was pulled from the river, the police wondered why I chose to swim out to save a struggling duckling. To them, that was absurd. And as I heard them discuss it, I realized that yes, it was absurd. As they took the baby goose from my frozen hands, they noticed that it had a foot missing. It had pecked its way out of its shell with no need for the foot. But it couldn’t swim as a result of the crippling defect. I realized that my overzealous need to help others crippled me too; it was my birth defect. If I hadn’t jumped into the water, the baby goose would have died, I would have lived. Either way, the goose was destined to die. I had a choice; and I didn’t weigh the options. I just jumped in and swam.

My name is Rayford Crawford. I believed that being healthy would help me live longer and stronger. I dedicated my life to helping others. But somewhere along the way, I lost my perspective and dove in head first to save a creature that was destined to drown. And I drowned with it. Absurd choice.

Do any of you know a Rayford Crawford in your life? I have met many in mine.


Posted by Katie Reed at 7:00 AM
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