I can’t quite remember how long it lasted, but when I was a child, my mom let a mouse live in her car. She seemed quite fond of the little feller and one pleasant day she released him into a field near her place of employment. Mice, she said, were our friends, they don’t hurt a thing.
She could find the redeeming qualities in any creature. Spiders were our friends too, and bats and snakes. She explained to me their purpose in the ecosystem and the importance of their existence. In fact, there was a honeybee hive in the eaves of our house for years, because bees are our friends too…except for that pesky reaction I had to their stings.
I’m pretty sure the only animal whose place on earth she didn’t fully celebrate was the mosquito. Try as she might, she could find nothing advantageous about mosquitoes.
Imagine my puzzlement when Alice, the Brady’s housekeeper leapt onto a chair over the presence of a mouse in the house. Silly Alice, you just catch him and send him outside. (In case I’m dating myself, this is a reference to The Brady Bunch, a popular sitcom in the 70’s). And when we found a bat in my room, you could have made a sitcom out of my mom and me whisking him out the window.
In my paradigm, the world is a good and orderly place not in spite of, but because of the tiny, crawling critters that are often despised.
(Just for the record, my mom is tidy, clean, orderly and otherwise normal, even though her tolerance for critters in her home and car is rather high).
Maybe she meant to as part of a larger life lesson, but I suspect she simply possessed an understanding that you can’t really decide if something is good or not based on appearances or reputation. That if you take the time to pay attention and look past the exterior, you can find beauty, joy, and purpose.
When my mom chose to delight in a field mouse who had taken up squatters rights on the floorboards of her Buick then gave him a send off into a better dwelling place, I don’t think she was trying to teach anyone a lesson, but she showed me how important it is to be gentle and kind and deliberate instead of reacting out of fear.
When I stepped on the bees that snuck into my house, she reminded me of the glorious flowers that wouldn’t survive without them, and that my injury had cost the bee his life. In so doing helped me understand that a tiny danger is a fair price to pay for the beauty of a world filled with flowers, and to tread carefully around the delicate ones who do so much to make the world so lovely.
And when she pointed out the garter snakes near the hose she always told me that they were more afraid of me than I was of them, then she pointed out their colors and how they “sniffed” with their tongues. Then I stuck out my tongue like a snake and I learned that we’re more alike than different, and that sticking your tongue out can break tension and make you giggle together, which pretty much means you’re friends.
Did my mom realize all the lessons she instilled by showing me the preciousness of these animals that so many people despise without a second thought? I don’t know, maybe this is just a distilled example of who she is. And best of all, she taught me that love is greater than fear.