96: Save the Worms

96: Save the Worms

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Save the Worms

One of the most responsible things you can do as an adult is become more of a child.

~Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Heavy rain pelted the grocery store parking lot. Dismayed, I wheeled my cart to a halt inside the foyer exit and waited for the downpour to subside, thinking of the work I had left to do at home. At least the kids would be in bed when I got there.

But thirty minutes later, after the rain had stopped, I pulled into the driveway and saw my son Andrew playing on our sidewalk while my husband fixed a broken storm door handle. “Why isn’t Andrew in bed?” I asked.

“He’s looking for earthworms,” my husband said, as if that is the natural thing for a four-year-old to be doing past his bedtime.

“And why is he looking for earthworms when he is supposed to be in bed?”

“Ask him. It has something to do with Wild Kratts”


Andrew’s favorite show, PBS’s Wild Kratts, features brothers who teach children about insects and animals in nature, and if the Kratts say something, my little nature lover takes it to heart. In a recent episode, they implored “creature rescuers” to help earthworms back to grassy areas when they slither out on pavement during rainstorms.

“Mom, we have to save the worms!” Andrew said, running to greet me. “If we don’t rescue them, they will dry out and die.”

I’d heard of dog rescues, cat rescues, even exotic wildlife rescues. But worm rescues? I hesitated to join the cause. I wasn’t fond of picking up slimy creatures, no matter how much they helped the earth.

“Andrew, it’s almost dark.”

I didn’t point out that the worms had all night to slide off the pavement and burrow back into the ground, long before the sun came up the next day and dehydrated them like crispy Chinese noodles.

“I also have a lot to do,” I added. I had to plan his homeschool lessons, put together a casserole for company that was coming the next day, and write an article that had a quickly approaching deadline. I was too busy to be doing something as frivolous as rescuing worms.

But then I saw the pleading look in my son’s eyes and the expectancy in his face. This mattered to him, the boy who hated to see living creatures die, excluding spiders and wasps. He still goes out of his way to save ladybugs, beetles, and mayflies. One spring, he kept a caterpillar in a jar next to his bed until it spun a cocoon and emerged as a moth. Then he released the moth outdoors.

“Okay,” I relented. “Let’s go save the worms.”

For the next thirty minutes, we splashed through puddles on the shimmering street. Andrew scooped earthworms off the pavement and gently placed them on the grass. We zigzagged across the road, delighted at each rescued worm. The water squished between my toes in my sandals, but I didn’t care. I imagined the neighbors, hidden behind their front-window curtains, shaking their heads and tsk-tsking, “Her sanity has diminished more rapidly than we thought.” But again, I didn’t care. When it grew dark, the neighbors’ porch lights illuminated the street while we saved every worm in the vicinity. No worm would die on our watch.

We came home wet, but exhilarated. I felt refreshed, ready to tackle any task. However, the to-do list didn’t seem quite so important anymore. I finished what I absolutely had to, postponed what I could, and crossed some items off all together. My most important task that day had been validating something that was important to my son, no matter how trivial it seemed to me.

That night, Andrew reminded me that childhood should never be as structured and organized as I am. There’s no way to predict when worms will need rescuing! When I’m overwhelmed with tasks, I take a break and do something whimsical with Andrew and his younger sister, Gracie. We picnic outside, follow animal tracks in the snow, fly kites, or play tag in the spring grass. The time away from work reinvigorates me and gives my children the chance to see their mom join in the spontaneity of youth.

Twenty years from now, my to-do list won’t change the world. But my son might. In his own way, he will leave an indelible mark on all the lives he touches. My hope is that he will be selfless and kind, willing to help others in need. I think he is off to a good start. At four, he taught his mom that making a difference begins with taking time to save the worms.

~Janeen Lewis

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