The story of Johnny and the duck

Johnny and his sister Sally loved to visit their Grandma. One time on a trip to Grandma’s house, Johnny and Sally each got a present. Sally got a baton. She was so excited because even though she was only 11, she dreamt of being a cheerleader.

Johnny got a sling slot. He was excited because he’d been wishing for one ever since he heard the story of David and Goliath. Johnny went out to play and practice using his slingshot. He created a target and stuck it onto a tree. Sally was in the backyard twirling her baton. After some time, Johnny felt disappointed because no matter how much he practiced, he just couldn’t hit the target. He practiced all day and into the evening, to no avail. As it was getting late, he heard his Grandma calling him to dinner. Forlornly, he sauntered back toward the house. On his way, he passed by the small duck pond and saw his Grandmother’s favorite duck, waddling out of the pond, dashing across the yard squawking at another duck.

Johnny, on impulse took out his slingshot, knowing he had terrible aim and from so far away didn’t dream he would hit his target. He threw a stone at the duck. To his horror, he hit the duck square in the neck, the neck collapsed and the duck was instantly dead.

Johnny ran to the duck in tears, shock and shame. He was petrified to tell his Grandmother he had killed her favorite duck. What was he to do? He just couldn’t tell her. Johnny took the body of the duck and gently placed it in the woods, covered it with brush, wiped his face and went in the house.

Grandma greeted Johnny with a big smile and a hug. She noticed something was wrong and asked, “Johnny, what’s bothering you?”

Johnny shook his head and said “Nothing.”

Grandma told him to wash up and prepare for dinner. She instructed Sally to set the table. When Johnny didn’t move, Grandma noticed his long face and asked again, “Johnny, what’s wrong? Did something happen?”

“No.” Johnny quietly shook his head and averted his eyes.
“You can tell me if something is bothering you.”

Johnny shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Johnny, with a very sad face, started toward his room to wash up for dinner and Grandma headed back toward the kitchen. Just as Johnny was about to head up stairs, Sally rushed over and whispered in his ear. “I saw what you did. I saw how you killed Grandma’s favorite duck and tonight, you are going to set the table for dinner or I’ll tell.”

Johnny was stunned. Guilt and shame overtook him again. He nodded compliance and went to the kitchen.

“I’m going to set the table tonight Grandma, Sally did it yesterday.”
Grandma simply responded “um-hm” and kept preparing the dinner.

Johnny hardly ate. He felt so bad about killing Grandma’s duck. And he felt even worse that Sally knew and especially that she would occasionally glance over at him with a knowing look.  After dinner, Grandma instructed Johnny to sweep the floor, and Sally to clear the table and wash the dishes. As soon as Grandma left the room, Sally ran over to Johnny and whispered in his ear.
“You better clear the table and wash the dishes too, or I’ll tell your secret.”

Johnny did it. He was forlorn that he had hurt an innocent creature and couldn’t bear the idea of Grandma hating him for killing her favorite duck.

The days continued on like this throughout the week. Johnny was getting increasingly anxious, Sally increasingly gloating and Grandma increasingly curious. Finally Grandma took Johnny, sat him down and said, “Johnny, there is something you are not telling me that is bothering you. No matter what you did, no matter how bad or how wrong, I will still love you. Nothing will change that,” and she gave Johnny a big squeeze and lots and lots of hugs. Tears poured down Johnny’s face as he tried to speak.

“Grandma, I took my slingshot and accidentally killed your favorite duck. I didn’t mean to kill him. I just wanted to scare him away from picking on another duck. I’m so sorry Grandma; I didn’t mean to do it.”

With a stern look in her eyes, Grandma abruptly grabbed Johnny by the arm and pulled him toward her. Johnny was frightened he would get a beating. Grandma squeezed him tightly and said,
“Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing, and because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you. I know it wasn’t in your heart to hurt him but you didn’t tell me the truth. And because you kept it inside, you suffered all week thinking that because of your mistake I would stop loving you. You had to find it inside yourself to be responsible for what you did and come and tell me.”

Johnny looked up at her in disbelief and heaved a huge sigh of relief. He melted in Grandma’s face and the love pouring down on him.


I first heard this story from an inspirational spiritual teacher, Gopeshwari Devi. It has stayed with me ever since as a potent representation of Transpersonal Energy Healing. For me, each character in the story represents one of 3 aspects that live within each of us. Grandma is our Higher Self or Higher Power, unconditionally loving, all knowing and all forgiving. She’s our Objective Observer and watches as we behave impulsively, without thinking and the consequences we create as a result in order to learn our life lessons. Johnny is the Ego-Centered part of us that is self-serving, acts impulsively in ignorance and therefore causes harm to himself and others even though without malicious intent. Sally is the Lower Self. She has selfish motives, feels no remorse and takes pleasure and seeks gratification from others who are hurting.

Our minds are so fickle that throughout the course of a day we shift many times from our Higher Self, helping someone carry their groceries to the car, to our Ego-Center, wanting someone else to pay our dinner bill, to our Lower Self, gossiping on the phone about someone of whom you feel jealous. Our work lives in increasing our relationship with our internal Grandmother, the One who loves us unconditionally, who deeply understands and forgives the fickle human nature of our mind, the One who really does see every action we do and loves us anyway. Turn to her, your inner  Grand, Mother, you are never alone.

Laura Fine, LMFT

Laura Fine, LMFT

Laura L. Fine
Director: Lionheart Institute of Transpersonal Energy Healing