By Ty H Phillips
There it was, cold, pathetic looking and glaring (or so I perceived) through the screen, into the warm and inviting house within.
I walked away at first and then stopped and turned around. Something about seeing it was pulling at my heart strings. I slipped open the door and pulled its six little legs free of the screen holding it in my hand; a meadow bug. I cupped my hands and shared my hot breath with it, hoping it would warm its small and rigid body. I placed it on the shelf and took a step back.
Watching for a few moments and hoping to see its little antennae and limbs wiggle to life, it did not. Maybe it would take awhile. I went to pour my coffee and watch Curious George with my daughter.
Often, a simple act like this is over looked; after all, it is only a bug, right? Only a bug—a life, much likes yours and mine—a shared lifecycle, a shared planet, a shared process of eating, living, reproducing and trying to make it from point A to point B. What makes us think, “it’s only a bug?”
This idea of a separate and superior self is the very root of the suffering that we come to experience on a daily basis.
We remove ourselves from the idea that like us, other life struggles to survive and find happiness, and like us, has just as much right to find that happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be opening all my windows and doors, offering refuge to every creepy, crawly that crosses the path of my home. But that single bug, the one that seemed to struggle to find a little extra warmth, caught my eye.
What if we all took the time to think about the suffering that exists outside of ourselves? What if we realized the connection of birth, procreation, aging, sickness, and death? We all share the same earth, the same food sources, the same water, sunlight, wind and rain, and even the same essence that sparks life.
Yet somehow, we try and remain separate, above, removed, and what has it done for us?
Rivers are polluted, mass extinctions ensue, the ozone is depleting, the oceans are acidifying and still we are all here, living and struggling to survive.
I walked back into the room a few hours later. The little bug was gone. He or she warmed up and moved off, finding its way across walls and carpet and houseplants. I wonder if it had a notion that is was almost dead? I wonder if it realized that I brought it inside? It may not have and that’s okay.
Knowing we have a shared life was enough to make me stop and think.
It was enough to bring me into that moment where we breathed together and shared the same space together and as insignificant as it may seem, it allowed me to show my compassion.
Not everyone has a heart for bugs or snakes or other things that don’t have fur or feathers, but as a human being, we all can relate to the life and suffering of each other. Every child brought into the world, crying for air and life, every first illness, first kiss, first heart break, and our first experience with loss—the death of loved ones and of innocence.
We can all take the time to stop and relate to each other this way. In our similar hopes and dreams, in our losses and pains and within this shared experience, we can learn to have compassion.
To be able to find empathy even for the seemingly worst of us; and maybe, just maybe, when that bug is peering through your screen on a cold and frosty morning, you might not bring it in, but you might stop and think that it’s not as far removed from you as you once thought.
Editor: Dana Gornall