The young man who I take care of took notice when I began to remove ants from our room last fall and usher them outside. He heard my outcry when a co-worker stepped on a wasp. Then, when on one of the first beautiful days this spring a beetle walked towards us as we sat on a bench in the garden, he said, “Oh Jon, I won’t step on him. I know that’s against your principles.”
When I asked if he would’ve normally stepped on it, he said, “Well, probably. I used to do that.” When I reminded him that it wouldn’t help him any to step on it and it certainly wouldn’t help the bug, he said, “Yeah, that’s true.”
Then, while walking down the path, he called out, “Oh, there goes an ant! We’ll let him go by. Okay, there he goes.” He continued to point out insects in our path, almost as if it had become a game to avoid stepping on them.
What was this? This was ahimsa – the practice of non-harming. This was a virtue. Though the size of the beings may make it seem like a small thing, when I remember that each insect is a living being – who has a mind like I do, who has the exact same wish for happiness as I do, who has been my loving mother in previous lives – then I can really rejoice in what a marvelous thing he did. Consciously protecting the lives of living beings is a wonderful thing! (“A person’s a person, no matter how small!”)
Seeing a 95-year-old vet who enjoyed fishing for his whole life refrain from killing showed me that we’re never too old to adopt positive attitudes and constructive actions. It also showed me that goodness is contagious.
When the co-worker who stepped on the wasp came to me later that day saying that he was sorry to do it in front of me and explaining that he was scared because he’s allergic to bees, I assured him that I wanted him to be safe and told him that I just want to respect the lives of all living beings and wished our culture had ways to keep insects away without killing them. I highly doubt that he’ll stop killing, but perhaps he’ll at least think about why someone would.
Today, I’ll keep my eyes open for opportunities to practice kindness, to deepen my resources of goodness, and to share them in a natural, unimposing way with others. When I see others practice kindness, I’ll rejoice in their actions and in the happiness that shadows positive actions, seeking the means to emulate whatever goodness I discover.