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Of Worms and Turtles

Posted by tinako on April 19, 2009

I don’t eat or cook worms or turtles, but I feel inspired to write about them today, and it’s my blog.

I took a run this morning and jogged over an enormous worm making its way across the road.  Because I was involved somewhat in my son’s second-grade science unit on worms, I know a little bit about them.  As much as a second-grader, anyway.  What I have gathered or put together for myself is that they come out on wet days, get onto pavement by mistake, can’t see where they’re going and become stranded, unable to make it back to the dirt only a few feet away, as the sun and the drying air slowly kill them, if they don’t get squashed first.  They just haven’t evolved as fast as our impermeable surfaces.

So when I am waiting with my kids for the bus on wet mornings, with nothing better to do, I occupy myself by flipping worms off the driveway back onto the grass.  I imagine them saying “Thanks for the riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide!”  My kids are unwilling to get their hands dirty, but they help by pointing out the live ones.  Usually I have cleared most of them when the bus comes.

So anyway, this morning, as I said, I jogged over the big worm.  I’d gone about a hundred feet when I started to feel a little bad.  Such a little effort on my part would have made both me and the worm better off.  I figured I’d get it on the way back, and as I ran along, I recalled a story my Dad told me years ago.

He was driving not far from his house one day when he saw a big, beautiful turtle in the road.  He went around it, but then as he drove away started to feel kind of bad.  He couldn’t turn around, though, because it was an expressway on-ramp.  A little while later he came back by the same way and the turtle was flattened in the road, its beautiful shell in pieces.

I remembered this story about 12 years ago when I saw a big turtle in the middle of the road, a somewhat busy rural 2-lane.  Because I had my Dad’s story in my mind, I pulled right over and walked back.  As I approached it, sitting on the center line, people were driving by in both directions at full speed.  It snapped at them as they drove by, inches away.  It didn’t have a chance.

This one was a very big, not-so-beautiful snapping turtle.  It had moved since I drove by, so I knew which way it was trying to go.  I knew about their bite, so I got a big stick.  I had to basically push it, which probably didn’t feel too great, as cars whizzed by.  The ones in the lane I was blocking waited more or less patiently.  Some people told me I was a good person as they drove by.  Finally I got it off the road and went back to my life.

I knew as I ran along this morning that I had not done the best I could do.  I can ‘t save every worm in the world, but I could certainly have helped this one in seconds.  I knew the worm had probably been flattened.  As I came back to where I had left it, I looked for it, but couldn’t find it.  Maybe it made it.

Why do we wait to do what we know needs to be done?  Why do we squander opportunities to help, when it would be so easy to do so?  What do we tell ourselves that dampens our better nature?  What does it take to make us strong people who will stand up and act when our values call us?  When will we be who we want to be, who we think we are?


3 Responses to “Of Worms and Turtles”

  1. […] bookmarks tagged earthworm Of Worms and Turtles saved by 5 others     Peter1999 bookmarked on 04/21/09 | […]

  2. […] in if, when the going got tough, the tough got compassionate?  What if instead of being afraid to help someone on the street in need because everyone else was stepping over him, we were to follow our heart and the values we […]

  3. tinako said

    This story is pertinent. I don’t know the author.


    Once upon a time there was a wise man
    who used to go to the ocean
    to do his writing.

    He had a habit of walking
    on the beach
    before he began his work.

    One day he was walking along
    the shore.
    As he looked down the beach,
    he saw a human
    figure moving like a dancer.
    He smiled to himself to think
    of someone who would
    dance to the day.
    So he began to walk faster
    to catch up.

    As he got closer, he saw
    that it was a young man
    and the young man wasn’t dancing,
    but instead he was reaching
    down to the shore,
    picking up something
    and very gently throwing it
    into the ocean.

    As he got closer he called out,
    “Good morning! What are you doing?”

    The young man paused,
    looked up and replied,
    “Throwing starfish in the ocean.”

    “I guess I should have asked,
    why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?”

    “The sun is up and the tide is going out.
    And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”

    “But, young man, don’t you realize that
    there are miles and miles of beach
    and starfish all along it.
    You can’t possibly make a difference!”

    The young man listened politely.
    Then bent down, picked up another starfish
    and threw it into the sea,
    past the breaking waves and said-

    “It made a difference for that one.”

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