On our afternoon walk today, I saw and heard some grasshoppers that brought back a memory from my childhood and brought on an epiphany.
My parents owned a sizeable parcel of property between Winter Park and Granby, Colorado during the 1950’s. I was fortunate to be able to spend most of six summers there as a boy. My dad built three ponds on one creek that flowed through the property and stocked them with rainbow and brook trout. On the backside of the property, there was another creek where the beavers had built dams, saving my dad the trouble.
Dad used to take me fishing in both of those places and we caught a lot of trout. He tried to teach me to fish with a fly rod but I got the line tangled in bushes and overhanging branches so often that it just wasn’t worth the trouble. So, we used bait such as salmon eggs, worms, and grasshoppers. The salmon eggs came in jars, which we bought at the sporting goods store in Granby. The worms and grasshoppers had to be harvested and I quickly learned how to do that. I was really good at it. My dad complimented me on my advanced skills and often suggested that I should go and employ those skills so that we would have ample bait on our next fishing expedition. I was proud of my abilities when it came to catching worms and grasshoppers and I understood that my role was significant.
Today, when I encountered those grasshoppers on our walk and recalled my days as a semi-professional bait harvester, it dawned on me that dad recognized an opportunity and seized it. Sending me for worms and grasshoppers with the promise of catching some trout with them was a very clever way to keep me occupied while he took care of more important business. It took me all these years to catch on!
Even though my task was pretty menial, it was certainly purposeful, a fact I never let go unrecognized after a fishing trip when we sat down to feast on our catch. We couldn’t have caught those trout without my bait. I still think those fish preferred my worms and grasshoppers to salmon eggs and fake flies. My contribution to the enterprise was extremely useful, though not very glamorous. The success of our fishing trips was the result of a joint effort. A little boy's bait helped a grown man catch fish and a family enjoy a delicious meal.
Each of us has a contribution to make to the rest of us. Some contributions are more glamorous and others go almost unnoticed. There are people who do the dirty work that others of us won't do because we are too well educated and too culturally advanced. Sadly, many people who perform vital tasks upon which we depend are rewarded with low wages, lack of adequate healthcare, and poor educational opportunities. Are there people like that who are involved in your way of life? Who digs your worms and catches your grasshoppers so you can haul in a big catch?
The Old and New Testaments are filled with admonitions that those who enjoy prestige and have more should not disrespect those who perform menial tasks and have little. Central to the message of the Bible is the truth that our lives and labors are interdependent in God's view of reality. God expects us to be mindful of how much we need each other and to continually look for ways to respect the dignity of every human being.
Daylight is fading now as I reflect on the epiphany of yesterday’s experiences brought to mind by today’s grasshoppers. This evening prayer seems a fitting close to these reflections at the end of this day.
O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer)