Sasha didn’t like wasps. There’s a reason for that.
She spent her summers at the lake. She loved the outdoors and enjoyed building forts in the wooded area across from her family’s cottage. Using a combination of branches, ferns and moss, she designed secret hideaways and created imaginary adventures.
One day, she didn’t see the wasp nest buried in the foliage. As she was collecting roof coverage, several wasps protecting their home attacked her back. She ran out screaming and crying, her skin burning with pain.
Sasha never forgot that day. She lost her desire to build forts and became more reluctant to venture into the forest.
Sometimes life hits us with unexpected events that cause us to tread more cautiously.
One day, while enjoying a dip in the pool on a hot summer day, Sasha noticed something quite peculiar. Floating beside her were 8 dead wasps. At first, she didn’t think much about it; except the flashback of being stung by angry wasps in the forest. She was indifferent to the lifeless wasps floating.
She was about to get out of the pool when she heard a faint sound. “If I can just get more air. I need more air.”
“Hello?”, Sasha called out, looking around to see who was talking.
“I can’t breathe. I…I can’t… “ Sasha heard deep panting, as though someone was struggling for their life!
“Who is that? Hello? Is everything ok? Do you want me to call 911? Where are you?” Sasha began to worry. Was she hearing voices?
“I don’t want to die… “
Sasha frantically looked around the pool area. “Please talk to me. Who’s there?” She started to walk towards the sound. “I can hear you. But I can’t see you.” She continued to move about the water.
She looked down and there before her was a wasp. It was still alive, climbing on top of its fellow comrade who had already breathed its last.
Sasha thought to herself, “Surely the voice didn’t come from her?” (The reason Sasha knew it was a girl-wasp was the stinger. Only female wasps have stingers. She learned that at school.)
She continued to watch this little wasp fighting for her life.
The wasp climbed on top of the drowned wasp, gasping for air. The lifeless wasp started sinking and she could no longer keep her head above water.
Sasha’s compassion kicked in.
She couldn’t bear the thought of this wasp, who was trying so hard to live, not getting a second chance.
She grabbed a leaf that was in the pool and the struggling wasp immediately clung to it.
Sasha took her to the side of the pool. She noticed the wasp was dragging her back legs, almost in a paralyzed-like state. One of her antennas was crooked and one of her wings was bent. Sasha wondered if maybe she made a mistake in rescuing it. Was she too late, and now will it suffer even more?
“C’mon little one. You’ve got this. Find your strength. Please…” Sasha paused, and gave her a name, “…Valerie.” (Valerie means strength. She learned that in school too.)
At one point Valerie weakly kicked her back legs in the air, trying to restore feeling from being waterlogged. She kept fidgeting with her antennas, her wings and her face.
“I can’t feel my legs.” whispered Valerie.
“I can hear you!” exclaimed Sasha! “I really can hear you!” Her excitement escalated, as did her hope for Valerie’s life.
Fifteen minutes had passed. The two were alone by the side of the pool. Sasha went to retrieve more leaves and created shade. Although Valerie kept limping, you could see her determination to live.
Valerie suddenly stopped. She lay still. She was exhausted.
Sasha panicked. “Please, Valerie, please. You’ve gotten this far. You can do this. C’mon my friend. You’ve worked so hard to survive, don’t give up now.”
The little wasp made an attempt to flutter her wings. Sasha noticed Valerie’s wings were starting to rest in their proper place against her body.
“Great job, Val!”
One back leg had straightened out, while the other one was still dragging.
Valerie continued to fidget with her antennas, combing each one until they stood symmetrically.
Valerie was patiently overcoming her near-death trauma. She kept going.
Sasha was clapping and jumping around in the pool. “You’re really doing this! You’re really going to live?! You’re amazing, Valerie.”
Is this the same Sasha that hated wasps?
Sasha stepped away. “Maybe I’m too close. Valerie, try your wings. See if they work!”
Valerie sat still.
From six feet away, Sasha waited quietly and whispered, “C’mon Valerie. I can’t bear the thought of you not living, after all your hard determination. Please Valerie, fly away. Try your wings.”
Sasha, in shock, cries out, “I knew you could hear me!! You spoke to me! I heard you!”
“I’m tired”, whimpered Valerie. “I’m so tired.”
Sasha bends down at eye level, “You listen to me Valerie. What you went through in the pool, losing your tribe, being alone, the sole survivor – no one can withstand such devastation. I’m sad you lost everything. I really am, Valerie. But I heard you, I heard you in the water. Doesn’t that count for something? You said, If I can just get more air. Valerie, you got more air! Please don’t quit now.”
“Yes, thank you for giving me more air. I’m weary. This is so hard.”
Sasha interrupts Valerie, “I believe you. I watched you. It was horrible to see you suffering. But your life is not mine to rescue. I can only give you air. I can’t make you choose to live. Only you can make that choice. After all this time you’ve spent in getting your wings and antennas to straighten out. I can give you air but I can’t make you live.”
Valerie sighed, “I want to fly.”
“Then fly, my friend.” Sasha stepped away and continued to watch from a distance.
Valerie walked a few steps and fluttered her wings again. Sasha clasped her hands in a prayer-like frame, and drew them to her mouth.
The wasp fluttered her wings again, this time with rhythm, like a car engine warming itself on a cold winter’s night.
“It’s time, Valerie, for you to fly. This chapter is over. It’s part of your story, but it doesn’t define your future. No hardship is meant to hold us back. It’s only meant to make us stronger. You overcame. Keep going. Keep living. There’s more chapters awaiting you!”
With that, Valerie bowed her head, “Thank you my new friend. I’ll never forget you.” and flew away.
In peaceful silence, Sasha looked to the sky and shrugged her shoulders “Well, whaddayaknow, she did it.”
Sasha was so proud of this little creature. So relieved.
She smiled warmly and her eyes lit up as she suddenly realized what just happened, “I saved a wasp from dying?”
These winged stingers were the reason Sasha stopped building her forts, stopped creating imaginary worlds, and became more fearful of the forest. “Maybe I shouldn’t quit on what gives me life either.” She ran in to her home, changed her clothes, and ventured back into the woods. “It’s time for me to build forts again.”
-Karen Thrall | Business Coach | Human Catalyst
ps/footnote: The phrase, “I can give you air but I can’t make you live.” is a quote from my friend Tanya MacIntosh while brainstorming this article. Thank you, friend! 🙂