It was only a worm. A menial, lowly, slimy, belly-crawling nematode. It
was one among hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, that crisscross the earth each day, devouring and spewing forth organic
fecal material that does much to make the world above lush and green and alive.
We had just exited Vincenzo’s Midtown restaurant, a modest little affair where we had just finished celebrating
the anniversary of another valuable life: Jen’s birthday. The conversation
flowed that evening as casually and freely as did the surprisingly good food across our palates, and we both felt quite comfortable,
talking and sharing our thoughts and anecdotes about both past and present.
Although it had rained
most of the day, torrential at times, when we stepped outside of the restaurant we found the rain had ceased, and slowly parting
clouds revealed just the slightest glimmering of stars that heralded the beginning of a beautiful tomorrow.
As often happens, though,
during rainy days that saturate the ground to overflow – the bane of all worms – a small creature appeared just
several steps ahead of us outside the entry of the Italian restaurant. It was
an earthworm. I was no more than maybe six inches long and only a little thicker
than the lead of a pencil. It writhed on the drying cement as though not sure
what to do or where to go, having found itself inadvertently stranded upon a veritable ocean of stone as it frantically sought
to reach shelter in the moist, supple grass just feet away. It didn’t
have the glossy, slimy coat that earthworms are normally accustomed to wearing, and it was evident that already the desiccation
process had begun - the death knell for any nematode.
I hesitated, bending slightly
at the waist for a moment, intent on picking up the poor, dying creature and toss it into the grass along the sidewalk. Yet I hesitated, considering whether Jen might not appreciate holding hands and such
after making contact with it. So, I stood straight and stepped over the helpless
Before I had taken another
step, though, I turned to watch as Jen bent down and carefully lifted the worm from the pavement, dropping it deftly into
the wet grass before we continued our trek to the parking lot. I walked along
side of her, pondering.
Although we cannot save
every creature that finds itself lost and alone, dying in this world, Jen saved one.
And though it was just a worm, I felt as though I was in the presence of an angel of mercy.