COMPASSION (A Lesson)

“We came not into this life by exile, but we came as innocent creatures of God, to learn how to worship the holy and eternal spirit and seek the hidden secrets within ourselves from the beauty of life…”

~

Kahlil Gibran

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Sadly I think sometimes the realities of life, the nitty-gritty pieces that seem to occupy so much of our time, divert our attentions from our true purpose, as espoused by Gibran in his words above. Perhaps the trick of it is to foster the awareness that keeps one attuned to these beauties of life amidst all of the chaos and unpredictability that is life.

A case in point, or perhaps not, but at the least, an opportunity to expound on this idea:

August 26, 2012 was a nice day. As is customary when it is warmer outside, and it being a Sunday morning, Laureen and I were sitting outside on our deck, enjoying our breakfast and talking.  While we were out there a wasp flew by, seeking to get underneath one of our chairs where it had built a nest in one of the holes of the metal tubes that form the framework of the chair. We’d often seen this behavior of the wasps in the past.  Usually they come carrying either thin blades of dried grass or the limp corpse (at least, we always assumed it was a corpse) of a small green grasshopper. They usually pack the holes so tight with the grass that it’s a wonder they can get in it at all.  And the poor grasshoppers, no doubt stung to death, one imagined served as food for the wasps.

Well, on this particular Sunday the wasp happened to momentarily land on my leg which immediately provoked an involuntary muscular twitch (or perhaps a bit more) on my part. Again, on this particular Sunday the cargo of said wasp happened to be one of the aforementioned little green “grasshoppers”. I guess in my eagerness to dislodge the wasp from my leg, I may have inadvertently kicked Laureen – just a tad, mind you. However it did have the desired effect of removing the wasp from my proximity, and the unintentional effect of causing the wasp to drop his cargo – the grasshopper.

So now the little green grasshopper was lying prone on our deck, at our feet. Laureen, who has little patience or time for most people, was immediately concerned for the welfare of the “grasshopper” and proceeded to gently lift the little creature off of our deck and bring it inside our house to assess its condition.

The preliminary assessment showed that while it was indeed prone, it was actually still alive. This was a plus for the grasshopper and a stimulus for Laureen to “go to work”. And from this point I can only say that what I have witnessed over these past three weeks and a bit (23 days to be precise) is probably one of the greatest acts of compassion that I am ever likely to see in my life – and one that I feel compelled to document, even though I realize that my words will fall far short of the true scope of describing what I have witnessed and I think it is in this capacity that it relates to Gibran’s opening quote here.

Once Laureen had completed an initial assessment of the grasshoppers’ condition she went about the business of ;  a) making it a little more comfortable and, b) doing some research as to what was the cause of its malaise, what it itself was, and what she could do to help it.

[Cue Google for the research]

The first lesson was that what we had always thought of as grasshoppers are in fact, Tree Crickets.

Unfortunately in the encounter with the wasp this particular tree cricket had lost one of her back legs and one of her forelegs.  Additionally, and the second lesson here, is that the wasp stings the cricket, inducing paralysis, with the intention of bringing the cricket back to her nest (in this case, our deck chairs) where she leaves her prone body, lays her eggs, and allows the newly hatched wasps to feed off of her body. One could say that this is the non-beauty side of life – at least for the cricket (although I do acknowledge the symbiosis of the relationship between cricket and wasp).

Perhaps it is a quirk of human-ness that we are able to personalize and emotionally attach to creatures that are not of our own species (although I have seen examples of different types of animals forming similar bonds so. . . never mind).

Be that as it may, once Laureen determined that the little green tree cricket was still alive, she set about the task of creating a little infirmary for her which consisted of a leaf from the yard, and rested her tiny prone body on it.  Then she did some research on what exactly tree crickets eat – which is a combination of vegetation and small insects like aphids and thus began the caretaking phase of our experience with the Tree Cricket. I should absolutely correct the “our” to Laureen’s because this was all her doing – all her experience, and I couldn’t help but think that even the Dali Lama would have to bow his head in servitude to the simple-yet-enormous scope of Laureen’s act of compassion – for which she would not even see it as such, but rather simply as something that there was no other choice but to do.

And thus, for these past three plus weeks, Laureen has been sitting with our little Tree Cricket, feeding her, giving her water, and talking to her. She has come up with a variety of foods that the cricket seems to like – mashed apples and potatoes and blueberries.  She wasn’t so big on the Strawberries. She also gave her water, turned her on her leaf, and replaced the leaf every few days as it dried out. Sadly, her paralysis never abated so apparently that is a permanent condition once applied.

The cricket has been amazingly responsive to Laureen’s care. She kind of has downtime when Laureen is busy doing other things but gets very animated when Laureen comes in to feed her. Laureen has fed her, and given her water, primarily by using a toothpick upon which she puts small daps of food, or a droplet of water.  The cricket, in her turn, eagerly grasps the toothpick with two little feeder attachments by her mouth and often doesn’t want to let go. Laureen has daily seen her go from a wan, pale little thing to “eyes-wide-open” antenna wiggling excitement.

One night I told Laureen that she had for a certainty earned her Angel wings. And I meant it.  Not that there was ever any doubt on that. The compassion that Laureen shows for all of God’s creatures, people notwithstanding, is beyond the normal comprehension of most people. I suspect I can only relate to this in some small way as a result of my own brief experience and insight into the hidden lives that these small creatures have on our planet. They are so often overlooked by the vast majority of people, but their lives are truly no less significant than ours and it is only our supremely over-developed egos, coupled with our frightening lack of awareness, that relegates most of Earth’s creatures to a “less than” status.

I can only say that I feel a deep-yet-humble honor at having borne witness to this seemingly insignificant, yet deeply compassionate act of caring for one of God’s smallest of creatures.  Laureen never ceases to amaze me and I sometimes suspect that I am in the presence of a saint – at least I think the critters of the world would agree.

As we checked in on the Tree Cricket last night, it appeared that perhaps her life was coming to an end.  She was very pale and unresponsive. But at 23 days, that is nearly one half of a tree cricket’s normal life span of about 8 weeks and Laureen certainly contributed to a much better end-of-life experience for the cricket than what was otherwise intended for her. I most certainly feel sadness and a sense of loss at her passing and that is a tribute to one of Laureen’s constant teachings-through-action – that all of life is important.

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2 Responses to COMPASSION (A Lesson)

  1. Janet Miles says:

    Wow, I definitely would not have done all that for a grasshopper!

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