I was taking my dog, Chase for a walk a few weeks ago, and I just happened to glance down. I saw a long and thin earthworm trying to cross the sidewalk in front of us. The sun was hot, it was moving slowly, and I could see it probably wouldn't make it across. To me the sidewalk was a short two steps in distance, but to the earthworm it was a vast and forbidding desert full of danger. Though it struggled as it slowly moved across the hot pavement, it continued on it's futile journey. I reached down, picked up the worm, and watched as it frantically twisted, turned, and tried to get out of the palm of my hand. I could feel that its skin was dry and it was only a matter of time before it would succumb to the extreme heat, a passing bird looking to feed its young, the shoe of a passerby, or possibly a colony of ants looking for their next meal. I looked at the earthworm for a moment as it blindly continued its struggling. I then gently put it down on the other side of the sidewalk in a soft patch of grass, and poured some water on it from a bottle I always carry. I watched it for a moment as it wiggled its long, brown body to and fro, and moved deeper into the grass towards the rich soil below. I stood and watched for a moment until it was out of sight. As I continued on my way, I began to think about the earthworm and its struggle to cross that hot sidewalk.
When I returned home, I decided to do a little research on earthworms. I hadn't thought about them in years, but I remembered my own childhood when we would take flashlights and look for night crawlers which would come up out of their burrow's at night. We would put them in buckets of dirt and leaves, and use them on our next fishing trip. I also have memories of my grandfather's farm, and how he would sometimes kneel down, reach into the rich soil and run the dirt through his fingers. Did you know that without earthworms most of our farmland would be gone. As a matter of fact, most of the earth would be rock hard, and virtually lifeless. Earthworms in their search for food, till the ground and create tunnels that allow moisture and air to pass through. Their tunnels store water and air, allowing bacteria to grow which breaks down organic matter in the soil and promotes the healthy growth of plants and crops. Earthworms also digest up to their own weight in leaves, roots, and other things in the ground every day which helps to fertilize the soil. An average acre of land has up to a million earthworms beneath the surface tunneling their lives away in a never ending search for food. It would seem that one of God's simplest and unassuming creatures has an important place in this world.
It may be doubted whether there are many othe animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these lowly, simple creatures."-----Charles Darwin
The strange thing is that I've been keeping my eyes open for other earthworms. I seem to be spending more time on my walks looking down at my feet instead of around me, or up to the sky and clouds above. When I take my walks I'll continually glance down at sidewalks, the hard surface of streets, or even bare patches of earth, and look for motion. I especially keep a wary eye as the sun appears after a thunderstorm, or a night of gentle rain. When I find an earthworm, I'll move him to the nearby grass, pour some water on him, and wish him well. I'm not sure why I do this. It seems kind of silly. A passerby, witnessing this scene might pause, stare, and think me a little odd.
The more I think about it the more I understand my fascination with, and my search for struggling earthworms. I have always said that we learn some of life's most important lessons from God's simplest creatures. We can certaintly learn humility. I also believe that every living thing has its place in the grand sceme of things, its own distinct purpose, and a reason for its existence. All of us, nomatter who or what we are, contribute something to this world. I may even see a little bit of the earthworm in myself. I have spent my entire life much like the lowly, but important earthworm. I have worked hard, and toiled my entire life away in obsurity. I'm not famous, rich, or important. I respect the earthworm because I have also spent my life struggling against adversity. I admire the earthworm's, determination, persistence, tenacity, and will to live. I have often continued to move forward, even if the odds were against me. I have many times in my life faced my own personal sidewalks. There have been times in the past when I was like an earthworm as I made a long and difficult journey under the brutally hot sun. Like some of the earthworms I have rescued I have also been alone, tired, thirsty, and not knowing if I would survive. I did survive though. I survived because someone had a water bottle with them. They reached out to me, and gently helped me across the sidewalk.
I guess that I will always continue to look down, and search the ground at my feet. I will also look not only in front of me, but to the sides and behind me. I won't worry much about the sky and what awaits me far above the clouds. What lies above will come soon enough. I'm also not just looking for earthworms anymore. I'm looking for people. I'm scanning the world around me for others like me who may need a helping hand, a gentle nudge, or just a little water.