Such a little thing, these fuzzy caterpillars. But given the right preschooler, a blind hill, and a rushing car and they become a matter for life and death. Don’t believe me? Well, gather close, children, and let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time . . . Yes, I know – all stories start that way. So does this one. Shush.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl with the softest of hearts and most sensitive of spirits and she loved all the glorious, wonderful, fascinating things that God had created. She particularly loved fuzzy caterpillars.
Have you ever held a fuzzy caterpillar? No? Well, let me tell you about them. They are sort of prickly and soft . . . what’s that? Yes, they can be both those things all at once. Stop interrupting!
And when you gently pick one up, they do one of three things. First they curl up tightly in the palm of your hand. This is how they protect themselves. You try it, go ahead – curl up tight in little balls. Good!
Then, if you hold your hand very still they slowly uncurl and start crawling along the palm of your hand. And that tickles. Here – hold out your hands and imagine a fuzzy brown caterpillar creeping along your palm. Close your eyes. Blow on your palm softly. See?
And then they poop. Right on your hand. Little globules of greenish-brown goo.
Yes, I see you are disgusted. Everyone poops, y’know. We just try to have rules about where. Preferably not in each other’s hands.
Oh! Yes, the story. Well, there was this little girl who was not in school yet. And every day she walked a long, long way with her grandmother up a narrow, shady, forested driveway to the mailbox. As they walked, she kept her eyes open for all of the forest’s critters: banana slugs, snails, frogs, birds, and yes, fuzzy caterpillars. She liked the fuzzy caterpillars best, and always carefully picked them up and moved them back into the forest so they wouldn’t get stepped on or driven over by the rare car coming down the driveway. She took care of her world, just as she was being taught by her beloved grandmother.
One day, as they climbed to the top of the hill and were looking both ways along the country road before crossing to the mailbox, she spied a fuzzy caterpillar inching its way across the pavement. And she knew she needed to save that fuzzy caterpillar from any car that may come along. Without another thought, she darted out into the road to scoop up that caterpillar. With a terrified shout, her grandmother raced off after her and just in the nick of time pulled her out of the way of a car that was driving much to fast on the country road.
And in her hand she held onto that fuzzy caterpillar, fingers closed tightly but yet not crushing the creepy crawly. To her, it was a matter of saving the caterpillar’s life. To her grandmother, it was a matter of saving the little girl’s life. The driver – like so many – was just plain oblivious.
What’s that? Oblivious means unaware, possibly uncaring. Of course, as you all grow up, you’ll always be aware of the world around you, right? That’s what I thought.