The $64,000 question: How do you keep small children entertained for weeks on end when you are decades out of practice?
Consider the ant!
While our newborn granddaughter is hospitalized, Mike and I are blessed to be able to care for her siblings, ages four and two. We’ve read books by the bucketful, played games until our vocabularies have been reduced to animal sounds, and taken so many trips to the playground that the local kids think we’re professional nannies.
One form of entertainment has been fun for all of us, though – an ant habitat. I was fascinated by the ant farm I had as a kid, although it was a tough sell for my farmer-father. He pointed out, justifiably so, that there were a gatrillion ants on our 350 acres, and it was a sorry use of family funds to import more into the house.
What captivated me, though, is what our grandkids also find fascinating: The chance to spy on ants working underground while they dig catacombs, haul loads, and even bury their dead.
In a well-known passage in wisdom literature in the Scriptures, we’re advised to do just that: consider the ant.
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Proverbs 6: 6-8 NLT
Ants can pick up and carry objects many times their own weight. Relative to their tiny size, they can move faster than any human being on earth (comparable to a person running 65 mph.) They’re capable of climbing trees 100 feet tall.
Ants are entomological superheroes.
“Who tells them what to do?” asks our grandson. “How do they know how to build their tunnels? Who’s the boss of them?”
Good question. Entomologists believe that ants communicate through pheromones, a chemical they produce, but still – who decides to put a tunnel here and not there? How did they agree on the location of their burial ground? And who sends out the alarm when an invader enters their kingdom?
This morning, Mike introduced a household ant into the colony. The resident ants came running and quickly overpowered the interloper while the kids watched avidly.
The newcomer didn’t stand a chance.
“Why don’t the old ants like the new one, Baba? There’s lots of room in there for one more. Why are they being mean to him?”
“Ants are like people sometimes, Truman. The old ants think the new one is different, so they don’t like him.”
“Someone needs to go in there and tell them to get along,” Truman says. “Fighting is silly.”
There is chaos in Afghanistan and bipartisan bickering in Washington. There are people refusing to engage with others who have differing opinions on masking and vaccinations. There are health professionals putting their own lives on the line for patients who would not listen until it was too late.
If only someone would come to our world – someone bigger and wiser and stronger than us – and tell us to get along.
“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” – Jesus
Fighting is silly, Truman, it sure is.
Consider the ant.
Copyright 2021, Maggie Wallem Rowe