I drove home tired, grumpy and craving time alone. If I hurried I could have an hour to relax before it was time to prepare lunch. All I wanted was a cold drink and my recliner. I parked the car in the garage, grabbed my stuff and headed for the house.
We’d had rain the day before, enough rain to make wet puddles on our cement. I stepped around one such puddle on our garage floor. I glanced at a very long and quite plump earthworm stretched out in that puddle. Too bad, I thought to myself as I hurried on. That would have made a great fish worm. But I haven’t fished since I was a kid.
I closed the back door of the house behind me and unloaded my things onto the kitchen table. That’s when I heard it. That still small voice inside my conscience that I don’t dare ignore. “Go pick up the worm and put it in the dirt.”
“No,” I argued back. “I’m tired and I don’t care about a silly old worm.”
“Go pick up the worm and put it in the dirt.”
Did I mention I didn’t dare ignore this voice giving me such unreasonable commands? A slightly used napkin lay on the table. Convenient. I sighed, picked up the napkin and returned to the garage. Somewhere in between the time I used to bait my own fishhook at Grandpa’s creek and this morning, I apparently lost my ability to not shudder in disgust at the thought of handling a worm. I gingerly picked up the big worm with the napkin, rescuing it from the puddle of water. I carried it outside the garage door and deposited it in the dirt.
“There. How’s that?” I was still carrying on an internal conversation with the voice, but it didn’t answer me. I shrugged, went back inside and threw away the napkin, washing any trace of worm goo off my hands. Now, about that recliner.
“Go see if it crawled away.”
“What? Why would I do that?”
“Go see if it crawled away.”
“This is totally crazy,” I muttered to myself as I went back outside and found the place I had put the worm. It was still there. Why hadn’t it crawled in a hole or something? Maybe it was dead. Yeah. I’d probably rescued a dead worm. Nice.
Then it started to squirm. First a little, then a lot. Then I noticed something. I was pretty uncomfortable standing there in the direct sunlight with all that humidity hanging in the air. Now, I admit I’m a heat wimp. My ‘miserably hot’ is most people’s ‘comfortable,’ but I also figured that worm was probably in the same discomfort as me. After all, it’d just come out of a nice cool puddle of water into the direct sunlight. Sheesh. If I was going to rescue the little guy, the least I could have done was put him in some shade.
But as I watched, the worm wiggled some more and finally began to make its way across the ground. Why had I thought it would just sort of burrow down into the soil right where I put it? But it knew better than me. It knew it had to get out of the sunlight before it got too dry. A dried out worm is not any better off than a worm stranded in a puddle of water.
It crawled until it came to a piece of tree bark lying on the ground. I almost lifted up the bark to get it out of the poor guy’s way.
“Leave it there.”
“Oh. Okay.” I didn’t have to be told twice this time. I left it there. The worm crawled under the bark until its head was sticking out on one side and its tail (do worms have tails?) poked out on the other. Then, the strangest thing happened. That big fat worm wiggled and squirmed until it was able to fit its entire length under that little piece of bark. It didn’t stick out anywhere. Big as that worm was and small as that piece of bark was, it had to have practically tied itself in knots to get all of it underneath the bark. But it knew what it had to do. And it did it.
After watching a few more minutes and seeing nothing of the worm, I went back inside. I found my recliner and my diet soda, but I couldn’t quit thinking about that worm. Was there a reason for my encounter with that ugly brown squiggly thing? I believe there was. I thought I was helping the worm. But no, the worm was helping me. He was teaching me a lesson I very much needed to learn just then.
What lesson can a worm teach a person? How about the fact that we all need a little understanding sometimes. Someone to show us just a bit of compassion. Being too tired, too grumpy or too wrapped up in my selfish wants is no reason not to reach out to others. Who knows what a kind word, perhaps even a smile could mean to someone who just wants to know someone cares?
Mr. or Mrs. Worm (truthfully, I don’t even know if worms come in boy and girl varieties) knew just how to take care of itself. It only needed a little help to get started and then it was on its way. Maybe someone I passed by this morning in my hurry to get home needed something from me and I missed it. Maybe all I had to do was smile. Or pick someone up from a puddle of their own grumpies. Did I just leave them to swim against the current? Or evaporate in the sun?
When I checked later (yes, I admit I did check), the piece of bark had nothing beneath it but an almost imperceptible hole in the damp soil. But my worm friend didn’t return to its home without teaching me a valuable lesson first. Be on the lookout. Not all 911 calls come with whistles and sirens. The loudest shouts for help might just be the ones that make no noise at all.