A story of tolerance and acceptance: How impactful moments are opportunities to release fear and learn how to coexist with others.
And just like that, it happens. It's those quick, often mundane moments in life that are the moments that can be the most impactful. I recently had one of these impactful moments, to which I now have a different view of how I will interact with people and my environment. It was a wasp and a turtle that made me realize that, although I have made great strides in awareness and appreciation of myself and others, I still have some work to do.
Have you ever struggled with an irrational fear? I have. With living almost 39 years on the planet, I have never been stung by a bee or wasp. NEVER. For years, I have had this fear of those poison-laden stingers and have done nothing short of running at the drop of a dime and looking like a buffoon trying to get away from them. I’ve had people try to reason with me, comfort me and even express humor at my reactions and explanations of why I fear them. Although I have never been stung by a bee or wasp, I have been stung by fire ants and the outcome was not favorable, to say the least. I practice caution by any means, and I have to admit that my actions to protect myself from being stung can appear to others that don’t have the same fear as “extreme”.
I am generally very purposeful in my actions. I have spent a great deal of time learning how to live in the present by practicing mindfulness and restraint. For some, the idea of purposefully setting out to mute the natural reaction of fight or flight is oppressive, but contrarily, as I like to say:
Being mindful is not about the absence anything, It’s about the presence of everything.
I want to be present and purposeful, so being afraid of a living thing that is simply living and doing what it’s designed to do is, in essence, irrational. Now, before I get the neigh sayers that finger wag my possible dismissive statement of irrationality, I simply mean that idea of the fear is irrational, not the feeling.
As the weather began to warm up, Spring was in the air, and along with it came the buzz of the bees and wasp making their hives. I opened the front door and realized that in the corner above the neighbor's door was the new construction of a wasps nest.
Oh NO! Not at the front door?! How am I supposed to leave the house every day?!
Ok, so a touch of the dramatic was added in the telling of this story, but I low-key felt a bit like this. Hey, I said at the beginning of this story that my fear of stingers is an irrational fear.
As the days passed, I began to see that the wasp had a pattern-just like me. I would get up to go the store or gym and the wasp would flutter off. Sometimes the wasp would be there sometimes it wouldn’t. But like clockwork every night, when I would get to that top of the stairs and put my key in the door, the wasp would be tucked in for the evening. Days turned into weeks and the same pattern persisted. Oddly enough, I began to gain an affinity for the wasp. We were able to coexist. It never came at me and I sure as hell wasn’t going to bother it. I didn’t completely drop my guard, but I noticed that my anxiousness became less and less each time I left the house.
On the way out one Saturday, I saw the nest and wished the wasp a good morning. While driving out of my neighborhood, I saw a turtle in the driveway and my immediate reaction was “Save the TURTLE!” I jumped out of the car, picked the turtle up and put it in the grass. Although it snapped at me, I somehow felt it would be thankful that I helped it from becoming road kill. I got back in the car and thought-look at me saving and coexisting with wildlife. GO ME!
While out running errands, I met a delightful woman waiting in line at the Post Office. Through our conversation, we both had similar mornings. She too had saved a turtle in the middle of the road in her neighborhood! As we spoke about our experiences, a thought came to me that I hadn’t connected in this manner before. I realized that my willingness to help and coexist with the wasp and to move the turtle to safety wasn’t far from what I already do and how I react with people regularly. I am a tolerant, patient and giving person. Even in situations and dealings with people that are unlike me or people that I find challenging, I still find a way to coexist with them. These interactions helped me realize that I could release fear and take action more fluidly if I accept the actions that I take as an opportunity, not just as a moment.
I respect that the measure of a person is much deeper than my initial understanding of who they are, what the do, how they live and what experiences that they have and will continue to have regardless of my presence or absence.
Our country boasts the ability to practice inclusivity and spread the word around the world that WE are open and welcoming and tolerant of ALL. Think of my story as a depiction of the world. Within my neighborhood, not unlike yours, I run into and interact with people from all walks of life. I order my interactions the best way that I know how. I’m a talker and tend to never meet a stranger, but for some that interact with me, I could be the equivalent to their wasp. Even if they don’t have an irrational fear of interacting with me, they may have had experiences in the past that caused them to practice caution in interacting. Better still, they may have never interacted with a person like me at all. Or like the turtle, they may run into a person in need and may not know how or when to assist them.
These types of interactions are an integral part of the human experience and help us develop bonds of kinship and understanding with others. Denying or removing these interactions, denies and removes opportunities for us to remove irrational fears from out thoughts, lend a helping hand to others, learn something new or just simply met a new person. Removing and denying these interactions is what keeps constructs like racism, sexism, xenophobia; hey, all the isms and marginalizing factors that are thriving in our neighborhoods and communities right now as you read this.
Maybe you have a proverbial bee or wasp in the house across the street from you. Or maybe you pass a turtle every day and wonder if you should or how you should help them. We were not created or designed to be alone. Although we can’t meet every living being on this earth; the tenants of humanity are about embodying that body that you walk around in every day and realizing that others are doing the same. Pushing people over borders, or behind bars, or at the back of opportunities and resources is merely a tool used to not reach our highest and best versions of ourselves. I always say;
It takes a village to build a village
And what else is the world that one big, village that we all live in? Why not make it a happy, prosperous village? Why not make OUR village a place where we are aware of others and appreciate our likeness and our differences, if need be, one wasp or one turtle at a time? Interactions aren’t just about the moment, they are also about the opportunity. Be sure to take them, both.