“Thank you for caring,” my friend said before hanging up the phone. Her words hit home. Sometimes in today’s busy world, where overwork, multi-tasking and stress seem par for the course, it’s sometimes difficult to make time for the things that really matter. How often do we neglect telling a loved one how much the mean to us, or let a call from a friend go to voice mail because we’re too busy, too tired, or simply can’t face one more external demand on our energy?
While there are certainly many legitimate reasons why we can’t always answer the phone every time a friend or family member calls, I’ve heard too many colleagues say, “I can’t deal with So-and-So right now, he’s driving me crazy!”
I reflected on my friend’s words that night while sitting on my back porch watching the fireflies flit in the warm summer air. I honestly didn’t feel as though I’d done anything special. I’d just answered her call and helped her talk through something that was bothering her. It’s what friends are supposed to do. But the emotion in her voice was humbling, and as I watched the blinking faerie lights of the fireflies, it brought to mind something I’d written several years ago and I thought I would share it again here. Our Writers’ Night Out theme this year is Sacred Journeys, and friendship is certainly a sacred journey in life. I hope this will remind all of us to be mindful of those around us – those who need our time, our strength, our compassion. We truly are all connected.
Of Fireflies and Faith
By Linda Monsees Stump © August 2005
Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. The light flashed in the warm summer darkness near the edge of my back porch at regular intervals as I stood in the garden watching the puppy make his last round of the yard for the night. Our LED flashlight blinks in a similar way so you can find it when the power goes out, and I wondered vaguely what it was doing outside. Then I realized the color of the light was gold, not green…it wasn’t the flashlight. I turned on the porch light to investigate.
It was a lightning bug, a tiny firefly, who had gotten trapped in a spider web. His regular blinking was like a silent call for help. I couldn’t see the spider in the web and had nothing against it, but I rather like lightning bugs, and after seeing his SOS I couldn’t stand by and let him become dinner. I didn’t have lightning bugs to add enchantment to a summer night when I was growing up, as the climate was too dry for them out west. But I have special memories of summers in North Carolina with my dad’s family, and sitting on the porch watching the fireflies sending their signals across the “back forty”, and hearing again the story of how my mother, newly arrived from England, saw lightning bugs for the first time. She’d never heard of fireflies and thought she was imagining the tiny lights flickering in the southern dusk.
I got the trowel in an effort to extricate the lightning bug without hurting him. I managed to free him from the spider web, but the silken strands were still stuck to him and he couldn’t fly. My husband came to the door and, seeing the predicament, went back in for the flashlight. Since his close-up vision is better than mine (I didn’t have my glasses on), I held the trowel and kept the light steady on our hapless friend while he gently eased the spider web from the firefly’s body. The little bug stopped blinking and for a moment I feared the stress of capture and having two “giants” hovering about had been too much for him. Then he moved, very slowly. I held my breath.
The lightning bug flew up off the trowel and then blinked at us – once, twice, three times in what felt very much like a “thank you” before being lost among others of his kind. My husband and I exchanged a glance and smiled. We’d made a difference in the life of one small being. I went to bed that night feeling a deep sense of satisfaction.
Still, the experience gave me much to ponder. How tuned in are we to the world around us and the creatures with whom we inhabit it? I wondered if, while the firefly blinked away in the prison of the spider’s web, he believed that help would come or, thinking himself beyond rescue, he was warning his friends of the danger. It may seem a bit anthropomorphic to attribute human thoughts and emotions to a lightning bug, but there was something about the tiny creature that touched my heart. Sometimes a cry for aid isn’t audible – and we have to be paying attention to hear or sense it. And, once we do become aware of the need, what do we do? Do we take the time and expend the energy to make a difference? Or do we walk away because we’re too busy and can’t handle the added stress of another’s problem? Somewhere around us, a person or animal needs us. They are waiting, just like the firefly in the spider’s web, calling out in the darkness of whatever difficulty they are experiencing and keeping the faith that somehow, someone will come and help. Will you?