In the full bus, packed to overflowing actually, everyone’s attention was drawn to a small boy holding a scrap of wood with extreme care. One lady could not bear it any longer, and asked him why he was being so careful about this worthless scrap of wood.
He explained, “I am taking a little ant for a ride. She is my great friend. It is her first trip in a bus.”
Who would ever have thought the kid could have so much poetry and kindness in him!
I could not keep my eyes off him. When he got off the bus, I got off too. I felt that here was someone I could really talk to.
I explained that I too was very fond of little ants. And I told him about the only time when the ants and I had ever been at cross purposes.
One night, our little ants at home gobbled up our rosebush. Nest morning, I caught Sonja, a little red lady ant and one of the cleverest I ever met in my life. I didn’t squeeze her angrily – for God preserved me from anger! But I did hold her with a certain firmness. Her little foot was trembling and her heart was beating fit to burst.
I asked her why they had gobbled up my rosebush in a single night.
Miss Sonja replied, “Do you think you are the only person to like roses?”
At first I was taken a back, but then retorted, “Eating seems a funny way of loving!”
At which Sonja nearly made me die of shame by asking, “Isn’t that what you do at Holy Communion?”
I apologized to her and set her free, carefully putting her back on the ground. For the next three days, all the ants looked at me askance.
Unable to bear this any longer, I called Sonja and asked her to help me.
And this is how, be means of Sonja, I taught the ants to smell the roses instead of eating them. I explained to them that kissing roses goes on all over the place. But not up here in Nordeste – we just smell them.
I invited the little boy who was taking his ant-friend for a bus ride to come and visit our garden one moonlit night and see all the ants climbing up the rosebush and smelling the roses.
The child did not react like a grown-up: he was not surprised, he did not disbelieve me. He thought it was great!
So I then told him how, one day, I met a young ant called Claudia, who was limping. We were in the garden at home. With her permission, I turned her over on her back to see what was the matter with her tiny foot.
So it was that Claudia for the first time saw the sky – for ants are just like us – go, go, go, run, run, never pausing to look up and gaze at the sky.
On seeing the sky for the first time, Claudia lay open-mouthed with amazement and delight. I soon realized there was no point in asking her about the foot. She was not listening. She was looking at the sky.
I told the little boy as he got into another bus carrying his ant on the bit of wood, “If you come to my house one moonlit night, you may very well find the little ants lying on their backs with their heads in the grass, gazing at the moon.”
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. | Matthew 18:2-4 (NRSV)
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.” | Matthew 18:2-5 (the Message)