Banana slug lessons (Wednesday’s Wisdom)

This is not "the" banana slug mentioned below. Image courtesy of Wikipedia,

In response to a “lessons” post last month on Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s blog, I wrote about the wisdom I learned on a field trip:

I was in fourth grade, on a field trip in the mountains with our class. My mom was one of the parent chaperones. I didn’t want her there–only the “dorks” had their parents there. It was an embarrassing day made worse when the “popular boy” intentionally stepped on a banana slug in front of my mom. She had a strict “no kill unless you are going to eat it” policy in life. (Whenever possible (which was most of the time), she trapped the mice/bugs/snakes/etc. in the house and released them in the field out back.) I was standing next to my mom when the conversation went down…

Mom: Why did you just do that?

Boy: I don’t know.

Mom: You don’t know, but you did it anyway? Would you like me to come into your home and squash you?

Boy: No, I suppose not.

Mom: I didn’t think so. That was senseless and unkind. We are in their home and the creatures that live here have every right to be left alone to live as they choose, don’t you think? Since they can’t speak for themselves, I’m doing it for them. I assume I won’t see anything like that again today.

Boy: (eyes downward cast, but mocking me, I was certain!) Yes, mam.

I never heard a peep from the other kids about it, but I felt humiliated by my mom’s scolding of this boy–the boy who I dreamed about. My future as Mrs. Popular was lost, but the lesson I learned that day wasn’t: Speak up for those that can’t speak up for themselves.

(Anyone who would squash a bug just for fun probably wasn’t who I wanted to spend my life with anyways.)

via Thanks For Reaming Me Out: A #LessonLearned by Ermine Cunningham « Lessons From Teachers and Twits.

I’ve written often about the lessons I’ve learned from my mom, but it wasn’t until I read this guest post on Renée’s blog that I thought about the day I learned, really learned, to speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves. I was grateful for the chance to revisit this memory, not just for the trip down memory lane, but for the “gut check” it offered.

Though not perfect (because no one is), my mom was an amazingly compassionate soul and particularly protective of the weak. She was a stay-at-home mom with a kitchen window that provided her the perfect vantage point to see almost all the way down the block. If there was “bullying” or unkindness of any kind going on, she knew about it and she stepped in, whether or not her kid was the perpetrator. And, the part about rescuing and releasing critters above–gospel truth. Over the years, I watched her quietly and humbly give of herself and her money, and all the while teach by example.

I’d like to hope I’ve done the same with my kids, and I’m well aware I have kids that were blessed with huge hearts that have nothing to do with me or my teaching. I think about my older daughter, C, who, at the age of 4, would immediately stop her play and greet any child that entered the McDonald’s play area to invite them to join her “so they didn’t feel left out.” Or the time when A, at the ripe age of 10, stood up alone to a table full of kids who had been teasing another group of kids in front of her. I think of the courage it took to offer those gestures, to the be the hand that reached out to help someone else and I fill with pride for my girls and am humbled by their examples of compassion.

Since the day I wrote my comment on Renée’s blog, I’ve been searching the corners of my soul, asking, “Am I helping those that have no voice when presented with the opportunity? Am I continuing to teach by example? Or, do I stand silent, grateful it’s not my problem?” I’ve noticed more often the acts of others, of my children and husband as they help those in need. I’ve pondered the actions I’ve taken to help others and wondered if there was more I could/should do. I reminded myself to always be on the look out to “practice random acts of kindness.”

My mother taught me compassion with her words and her example (with the help of a banana slug.) She was ever grateful for the life she had, and she inspired me to be a better person. I have been blessed often and inspired by the generosity and  kindness of family, friends, and strangers who have helped me up more than once with an outstretched hand. I’ve been inspired by my children who have stood in defense of the bullied and the lonely. I’ve been motivated to do more by the writers I have come to know through this blog. And, I’ve been blessed by the opportunities I’ve had to help others. It feels good to help, to speak up for those that can’t speak up for themselves, to be the light in someone’s darkness. Acts of compassion truly offer their own rewards.

There are many opportunities to help those that are in need and either can’t or won’t speak up for themselves. One need only look at the headline news to read the stories of child mercenaries in Uganda or of the unemployed in our own backyards. Perhaps, there is a friend who needs groceries but can’t get out to the store, or a stranger whose path you cross on social media in need of encouragement and hope, or an in-law you lovingly welcome into your home, in spite of “the history”. Reaching out, speaking up, offering hope, are all ways we can be the voice for another in need.

Tomorrow, I will share the story of 3 fellow bloggers and their selfless gift to those with the smallest voices. In light of so much negativity on the news, it is good to be reminded of the goodness of others. I hope you’ll read.

Until then, what or who has inspired you to be a better person?

15 thoughts on “Banana slug lessons (Wednesday’s Wisdom)”

  1. First off, I LOVE banana slugs! When I lived in Humboldt County, at the northern tip of California, they were everywhere due to the wetter climate. Amazing creatures, for sure, and I can’t imagine smashing one! Bugger! I’m inspired from so many directions to live my life thinking of others. I feel graced to have this passion, instead of a passion that is “all about me”. But, I know in my heart that the changing of the guards with respect to wearing anothers’ shoes truly began with the birth of my daughter. All of a sudden, her needs became the center of my life, rather than my own! Maycee, too, like your girls, has a bleeding heart, especially for stray animals and kids who are sort of “outcasts”. I feed off of that and use it to help us both find ways to do what we can outside of our own needs…like give to folks on the corners of the highway with their “help” signs, serve at church, pray, and be helpful to our neighbors. Interestingly enough, TM, I’ve asked Deb to write a guest post on this very topic: who inspires you? Isn’t that cool? 🙂


    1. AH!!! Kindred spirits!

      The field trip I was on was in Big Basin National Park in the Santa Cruz mountains! I miss seeing them now that I’m in the mid-west. 😦

      I suspect you were a kind and generous soul long before Maycee came along, but I know the impact a child makes on us. Like Maycee, my girls are “bleeding hearts” for animals as well. At its height, our zoo had 18 animals, almost all of which were rescues. Slowly they have passed, and I’ve said we are on a “no replacement policy” because of the busyness in their schedules at this point in life. If they could though, we would run a full animal rescue facility.

      I’ll be excited to read Deb’s post! So cool!


      1. Yes, this sounds like us! If not for my very limited funds these days…we’d also have a rescue facility at our place, hee, hee. As of now we have two elderly daschunds whom we rescued two years ago and paid for surgeries to get rid of tumors and whatnot, my old kitty kat Moo Moo, who is also a senior, 4 remaining fish from an ever changing collection, and two firebellied toads. Prior to (and in addition to) this we had my kitty, Kurtains who lived for 19 1/2 years (passed a year and a half ago), Bell, a feral cat that managed to become domesticated enough to stay in our home but wouldn’t let us touch him, ha, ha, and Dafnee, a dwarf hamster. 🙂 Along with these pets come various friends of Maycee’s that I “adopt” as second children, currently, Anthony the neighbor who I think would live at our house if he could. LOL. Good things-every one of them! Have a great weekend, TM!!! 🙂


  2. Wonderful post! I am also happy you provided a picture of a banana slug…never heard of such a thing.

    Who inspires me to be a better person? At the risk of sounding cliche, I will have to go with Jesus Christ. I love the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and if I try hard to live by what he says, not only there, I find myself more relaxed and at peace. I also like to read Romans Chapter 12 to remind myself of some key Christian living principles–I really should try to memorize that chapter.


    1. Love, love, love this! And, me, too.

      Oh, and about banana slugs…Another fun fact from that day–I licked one, after the teacher showed us. They may the tongue tingle (from the protective neurotoxin they produce) and were used by Native Americans to control pain.


  3. Another beautiful, thought-provoking post! I wonder if I can guess who you will feature tomorrow? There are certainly a number of bloggers -yourself included!- who have been inspiriing me lately with their selflessness and compassion! I definitely feel like I don’t speak up enough, but I suppose it’s always a work in progress. I loved hearing about your daughters’ acts of bravery; it most certainly is a reflection of you, I’m sure!


    1. Thanks, Jules! And you must be clairvoyant! I have no doubts you knew who “the ripples” post would be about. I think Jay Leno should think of adding a Jules-the-Psychic to his Ross the Intern segments. 🙂 Better yet–you and Ross should have your own show! That would be my new guilty pleasure!


  4. I have a favorite saying. In fact, I probably use it too much.
    “Apples don’t fall from pear trees.”
    You are a good apple.
    And your mother is positively delicious.
    How lucky you are to have had such a wonderful guiding force in your life!


    1. OK, first off, I love that saying~ so cute!
      Second, thank you! I’m blushing, and I really think my kids came into this world with huge hearts that are beyond my teaching.
      Third, my mom was a special lady. I wish I had seen it while she was still alive.
      And lastly, thanks for your comment! ♥


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