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The Least Creature
A True Life Story
By: Melissa Drake

When I was little, so little I cannot remember quite when, I learned about the world in a way that cannot be taught. All children feel the world is them, so when they hurt, the world is a bad, cruel place, and when they are happy, the world is good and just. And every parent teaches them that the world is full of other me’s, besides the child, and the child learns that these others have feelings and desires like their own, to share candies and let others on the swing.

Like all children, I was instilled with the beginning seeds of compassion towards other children, and I tried to learn well. But it was hard for me to feel compassion and kindness toward others who could be so mean and thoughtless. Instead, I retreated into myself to think the deep thoughts of those who can barely tie their own shoes.

Akin with deep thought was the tendency to look at things on the ground, since the ground was very close to me. I would watch ants and ladybugs climb over plants. I would watch the plants themselves. And one day, I will never know when, I noticed the worms.

After a rainstorm, worms must evacuate their underground homes, which flood, to the air above, and there are always hundreds to be seen. They make their sightless way to roads, driveways and paths, where inevitably many die under a car, bicycle or unseeing foot. I was fascinated by this blossoming of worms, each so intent on moving to a destination of safety. Should I pick one up, they would wriggle aggressively and slime my hand, hoping to evade this predator. When calmed down, they would explore my palm.

I delighted in their muscular forms, so simple, the little bristles that pulled them along the ground, the way their bodies stretched to move. I watched as their six-chambered hearts pumped blood to every part of their bodies, so much more visible than my own heart, and so vulnerable. They were perfection as only a child can realize the perfection of an animal that was created to be what it is, and created with every small detail. They were the least of creatures, sightless, without ears or a face or spine or limbs. I loved them totally for existing, for being so obviously and truly alive.

I also saw how they would sightlessly crawl into a puddle only to drown, or crawl onto a driveway or road only to be crushed. Often, the ones in the puddles would search around, trying to understand why the world had changed, why they were under water. I realized that what was so hard for them was simple for me. I had only to lift them out of the puddle, or to remove them from the road which they were trying to cross, and a life would be saved. This, too, was a delight, a labor of love, and I would watch for them after the rain. I would save tiny ones, barely longer then a finger, and huge, 6 to 10 inch ones, old and venerable worms, and I saw that by saving the small, some might become as big as the biggest worms I found.

The worms would thrash and worry when I picked them up, and some would attempt to go back to the road, to head back to the pool, until I found I had to move them into gardens and lawns to slow them down. I knew, inevitably, I could not save them all. Some would already have died when I was let out after a storm, some would be eaten by birds, still others, I knew, would end up back on the road or in the puddle from which they were rescued. But, as a child, I was never discouraged. Each one was important, and I would help each and every one I could find.

Now that I am older, I realize that in my life, too, there’s Someone trying to keep me off the roads and out of the puddles of life, which I will sightlessly seek out. And each time God rescues me, I might find myself acting like the least of His creations, and try to get right back where I had been. Because there’s not much difference, as any child can tell you, from the joyful life of a worm, and the joyful lives we lead.

As for myself and the worms, this least little bit of compassion spread. The worms I would use for fishing, I soon discovered, were no different from the ones I would try to save. The birds in the trees were the cousins of the chickens on my plate, and Wilber the pig in a story was the same creature from which  my pork chops were made.

And the child in me saw that each being was perfect, and living, and loved each of them for being so.  I knew that I could never again eat or harm another creature.

Melissa Drake
Rats4Rats

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