I just read the sweetest little story (the first comment on a post by Through Open Lens) about a little bird “asking” a human for help and receiving it with gratitude. That story got me thinking of an experience I had watching an ant.
I was sitting on the concrete steps of a little utility building in a park on a river. I was much younger then, a teenager, and so it wasn’t strange that I sat with my legs splayed wide open and my elbows resting on my knees. Looking down I could see a crack, a narrow opening, where the step below me met the riser to the step on which I sat.
What caught my eye was not the crack in the concrete but the sight of a small, moving piece of potato chip. A moving potato chip will certainly catch a person’s eye! Now that my attention was on that mobile potato chip, I saw that it was actually being carried by an ant, on its shoulders (do ants have shoulders?) with determination and gusto. The ant carried the potato chip to the crack in the step and attempted to enter. Too small. The chip wouldn’t go in.
By now I was all caught up in the ant’s task and couldn’t look away. I watched the ant maneuver the potato chip into a different position and try again to carry it to its hidden destination. No go. The chip wouldn’t go in. I watched again and again, each time becoming more vested in the ant’s plight and silently rooting for its success. He tried, changed position, tried again, changed position again. No go. The chip wouldn’t go in.
The ant finally dropped the potato chip and disappeared inside the crack. I said, out loud, “Awww,” and actually felt bad for the hardworking little ant, trying to imagine what ant disappointment looks like. I went back to my idle sitting and watching the river.
Not too long later, I happened to glance down and was amazed to see two ants come out of the crack in the concrete. They circled the potato chip a few times, seemingly stopping to converse between rotations, and then they picked up the potato chip and headed toward the crack! One try, two tries, reposition, three tries and the ants and the potato chip disappeared into the crack! I’m telling you I was stunned but so happy for the ants and their success!
I have never forgotten that story, nor all the lessons within it. Yes, try try again and all that but there’s a bigger lesson there …
Nature asks for help!
Just like the little bird in the comment I read, the ant knew it couldn’t accomplish its task on its own and it went and asked for help. Nature asks for help!
I recently posted an entry about my stubborn self-sufficiency but this story is a great reminder to myself and to all humans that it is natural and oftentimes necessary to ask for help. Some loads are just too heavy to bear alone. When we need help, we should, for our own sakes, reach out for help, accept it, and display gratitude.
One thing I love about the story of this ant and the comment about the little bird was that, in each case, the worker tried again and again and again, on his own, to accomplish the task. When they finally gave up, there was no need for shame; they had given it all they had. What they asked for was what they didn’t have at the moment: a boost, a collaboration, a partnership, a friend.
It’s forty-some years later and I remember every detail of this story; perhaps because I need periodic reminders of the lessons, one being that success means giving it all you’ve got and then asking for the helping hand when you need it.