The first mention of ladybugs in western history comes from Europe during the Middle Ages. It was amidst famine brought about by hordes of insects that the people of one region prayed to the Virgin Mary for liberation from starvation. Shortly thereafter, small beetles with spotted red shells arrived on the scene and began to eat, not the crops, but the insects that had threatened the people’s livelihood. Overcome with thanksgiving, the peasants referred to the tiny creatures as “beetles of our Lady”, a name that was eventually shortened to “ladybugs”.
I know this is because there’s a ladybug hanging around my desk and he prompted my curiosity. As I type, he’s walking across the screen of my computer. The first time I saw him, he landed on my arm and, thinking he may have been a mosquito, I nearly squashed him out of instinct. He responded to my startled movements defensively, wings and legs tucked behind his spotted exterior. After I’d calmed down for a few minutes, he resumed what he was doing as if to say “Whew! Calm down, bro”. He proceeded to crawl down my arm and along my fingers as I typed in a distracted manner. If possible to see a face that small, I’m sure I’d seen him beaming as he rode my pointer finger up an down like a roller coaster while it pounded out each “r”, “t”, “f”, “g”, “c” and “v” in my words. It must’ve been the highlight of his day.
If I am a victim of anything, it is a self-concocted routine. I paid more money to get a phone that has a calendar application because such a device awfully convenient and helps me keep track of the meetings and various hours I have to work so I can pay for a phone that has a calendar application. Between classes, homework, and a couple part-time jobs, it’s rare that my day isn’t booked solid from the moment I awaken; I have to actually schedule time to be with friends and even my fiancé. If something takes longer than expected and my schedule is somehow disrupted, it’s a great stressor because, God knows, everything on my calendar must be accomplished. My car refused to start the other day and without a doubt this was the most difficult external circumstance in my life last week. When I turn on the evening news or even venture into the city or a rural town, I have to cast my eyes downward because I’m ashamed that owning a car that won’t start is something I even consider a problem.
Christ said that the meek are the blessed ones, that they will inherit the earth. Meek: a word I’m so unaccustomed too that I cannot tell you it means “quiet”, “gentle” and “easily imposed upon” without looking it up. Upon doing so, I survey my life and find little about me that is meek. I live by a schedule of tasks my future demands I accomplish. My studies evolve around my education, my personal enlightenment. Even in love I have to question how many of my actions aren’t just slices of my emotional income that I’m investing in the anticipation of a return somewhere down the line. There’s nothing about me that’s easily imposed upon.
Emily Dickinson said that hope is a thing with feathers. For the starving peasants of Europe hope didn’t even need to have feathers. They would settle for the wings of their lady come to rescue them. When those same wings land on my arm, my instinct is to brush it off, to flick it away because it’s distracting me from a task at hand.
But if I pause and take a moment I might see how often my routine is interrupted by unnoticed hope. Maybe my car doesn’t start because there’s hope for me not being ruled by material possessions. Maybe I don’t pass this class because there’s hope that intellect is not my king and there’s hope that my identity will not be defined by words on a piece of ludicrously expensive paper. Maybe I need hope to interrupt my routine a little more, simply because I need to be reminded of how much I need hope in a world that’s provided it’s own way straight into hopelessness.
If it’s the meek that will inherit the earth, I’ll be lucky to inherit anything. I’m afraid that unless I can look up from the bubble I’ve created for myself one day all that will be left is a feather, one despairing feather remaining from the hope that flew off while I was distracted by something I’d deemed to be greater. And so I’m grateful for the small distractions in life, cars that won’t start and ladybugs on my arm. If anything, they remind me that that there’s hope for me yet.