“The wisdom of the humble lifts their heads high, and seats them among the great. The bee is small among flying creatures, but what it produces is the best of sweet things.” Sirach 11:1,3
Yesterday I heard a wonderful report on MPR about a Minnesota woman who received a ‘genius’ grant from the MacArthur foundation. This grant carries a gift of $500,000 for the recipients to continue the study in which they have been engaged. The recipient, Marla Spivak, has spent years studying the honeybee. In the report she was asked how she came to such work. She declared that she had been ‘hooked on bees’ since she was eighteen years old. I laughed out loud in my car. Hooked on bees! I think of what it must have been like to discover your passion so early and to have continued its love throughout your life. And then to have received a coveted award for that same love.
Now, to most people, honeybees may not seem like very important beings. Certainly not worth such a grand prize. But Marla Spivak points out that honeybees pollinate a third of the food supply of fruits and vegetables in the United States. Without their work, our lives will become less healthy. Something to think about, isn’t it? Those little insects that buzz around the flowers and sweet drinks we hold on our decks on sunny days are important to our over all well being. And the truth is, they are not doing well. It seems that with diseases and pesticides and (can you believe this?) less flowers in the world, the honeybees are declining in numbers and in their own ability to do their work. And so the point needs to be made: If the honeybees aren’t doing well, what about we two-leggeds who can sometimes walk about as if we are the center of the universe?
This all made me think about what other beings in our world we might be ignoring or overlooking simply because they seem smaller and, to us,insignificant. I happen to be one of those people that believes that each part of Creation has a purpose. Sometimes, in my limited life experience, in my narrow understanding I don’t always realize this truth. But hearing about the honeybees yesterday gave me a reason to keep my eyes open, to be on alert, lest I think myself more important than I am. It was a good wake up call.
There is a story I have heard more than once about the ways in which the rabbis used to help their students understand the sweetness of the scriptures. They would fill a tray with a thin layer of honey. Then they would have the students write the Hebrew letters in the honey. After the letters had been formed, the students would be instructed to lick the honey off their fingertips. As the sweetness slid off their fingers, onto their tongues and down their throats, the gift of the scriptures literally became a part of the aspiring writers. It is a wonderful image isn’t it?
Perhaps those of us who travel life’s sweet path today, might take a moment to be present to all the small creatures with whom we travel. We might pause and think about what they bring to our lives and how we would be less without them. And then we might say a prayer of gratitude for the ants and worms that plow our garden dirt and the box-elder bugs covering our window screens. For the squirrels busily gathering food for their winter sleep. For the bats which swoop and the mosquitoes that fly. And especially for the honeybee on whom we depend. Even when we don’t know it.
And while we are at it, how about a prayer for the ones who get hooked on these creatures and can bring us to a greater appreciation.