A LITTLE REVERENCE FOR LIFE

Jake is the kind of guy that doesn't like to tell everybody what he's up to. He does what he does and lets it go at that. When I ask him why he says it's because people ridicule what they don't understand, or what they don't want to understand. And when Jake uses the word ridicule he knows its root meaning. Of course Jake isn't his real name. It's the name of his next door neighbor's dog. I don't want to embarass the guy.

I bring him up because we got to gabbing the other day and we ended up speaking about Schweitzer and how emphatic he was about reverence for life. An important matter, we both agreed. At one point I told him about some people I play pickleball with who had to babysit a boy of about five. He was somebody's grandchild. The boy was quaintly coloring in his coloring book until his attention was taken by an ant who was carrying a crumb twice his size. This struggling ant struck the little tyke as an ideal victim to smash and scrape into a smear. Which he did with zest. He was a child, a human child, and his impulse and action was understandable, all too understandable. Some of the elders around him, all over seventy, cheered him on, and went so far as to supply him with thoughts put into words like "Kill that dirty ant!" and " Stomp on him!" and " Bad, bad ant." And finally, " Good work, Christopher." I spoke to the boy but his chest was too puffed in triumph and he couldn't hear anything but the echo of his babysitters' applause.

This was the anecdote that moved Jake to tell me of a little event that had happened that morning. He had gone out to the local bagel shop early and as he was coming down the little hill toward the entrance to his driveway he spotted a little animal, dark and about the size of a chipmunk, moving frantically along the street side of the curb. The road he was on has two lanes going in either direction and it has the feel of a speedway and many a motorist has succumbed to its lure. Well, Jake stopped the car, which is dangerous because if someone is stepping on it they won't see you till they get over the rise. But he said that there was nobody behind him. So he pulled over and put on his directional signals. "I didn't know what I was going to do" he said, " but the poor thing looked like he couldn't get up and over the curb and he might make a dash across all four lanes." As it turned out by the time my friend got out of the car the little animal was gone.

That's one of the things I like about Jake, his heart goes out to the tiniest form of life. He feels that they are his responsibility. Jake knows what's going on in the world. He's no dope. But he says that the animals and the fish and the plants matter, and so does every last little living thing and if we don't take care of them who do we think is going to do it?

Maybe there are people who would make fun of him. I don't think Schweitzer would.

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