My Fingertip


This morning as I went to put my bag in the passenger side of my car, I noticed a fly on the rim of the top of the car, just above the doorframe. I peered at it closely to see why it was moving so much, yet remaining in the same place. It had long, lovely oval shaped wings, kind of like a dragonfly’s wings. They weren’t short and stout like a housefly’s wings.

It turns out this fly was upside down. Its wings had become adhered to the surface of my car, stuck there in the moisture that had condensed on my car overnight. Bummer. I waited a moment, to see whether this was a momentary situation, or whether it was more serious. As I observed the fly moving, it seemed that no matter how much the fly struggled, the wings stayed flat and stuck. I worried for this fly.

I know, I know. Some might say, Laurel, why worry about a small fly stuck on your car? I am the kind of person, when given the option, will chose to walk around an ant or a bug rather than stomp right on it during the course of a walk. Also, I was afraid that if I did nothing, the fly would die, and worse, that I would be stuck with that image of a struggling fly in my mind all day long. My mind can be my best friend or my worst enemy. I have learned the value of thinking about how long something will stay in my mind and when I have options, what I can do about it.

What to do, what to do? I could see clearly that the wings were flat and smoothed over by moisture, almost like tissue paper would be if someone dripped a dropper full of water onto it. There was complete contact with the surface of the car – no bubbles or edges to pry off. Like a stamp licked and smoothed flat on the surface of an envelope.

I considered gently taking the body of the fly between my fingers and pulling. But, then I thought, what if the action of me doing that sent the fly swirling into a panic that hastened its demise? It was already locked in a struggle it did not seem to be able to win…and I had no way to communicate, “Hey fly, I’m only here to help!” Maybe someday there will be A/I human to non-human telepathic communicators!

Since I don’t live in the world of the Star Trek future, I had to focus on what I could do that wouldn’t make the fly’s situation worse. What if I pulled on the body of the fly, and, God forbid, its wings were torn in two? Or what if its body split from the pressure, even worse!!! Ew, gross! That was definitely not the kind of morning memory I wanted to have in my mind later in the day. That would really freak me out.

I considered taking the edge of my fingernail and trying to slide it carefully under the stuck wing. I hesitated…it’s one thing to leave a struggling being without helping…it’s another thing to try to help and to actively damage that being and make the situation worse. It’s a risk we sometimes have to take. But, I was worried. I know little about biology, but I know that wings are delicate and very important to a fly.

I was stumped. I was also beginning to feel kind of foolish standing out in the street and hoping to help this fly. I needed to get to work. So I took a moment. I took a breath. And I said a little wish, or prayer that I often say when faced with a situation where I know I want to do something, yet I don’t know what it is that I need to do. It went something like this:

“Mind,” I said, “or spirit guides, or God, greater consciousness, whatever might be possibly out there and willing to help this fly live, let me know if I’m missing anything. Let me know if there’s another option.”

Almost with out thinking, I reached my fingertip carefully out, close to the upside down, struggling fly. To my great surprise and wonder, the fly immediately latched on to my fingertip with all available legs. The fly took hold, and within a couple of seconds was able to pull itself away from the car. The wings of the fly were pulled along with it and began to flutter gently. I was stunned. I hadn’t even been able to sense the touch of those fly legs – they were that light! But I saw them hold my fingertip and I was moved by this act of rescue. All it took was allowing the fly access to what was needed so that the fly could take care of business. So that the fly could pull its own wings away and live.

The fly held onto my finger pretty good. As I thought about my next step, I realized that I wanted to give the fly a chance to recuperate. Who knows how long those wings had been stuck? How long those legs and body had been struggling. I’d hate for that fly to be so tired from the struggle that it tried to go airborne and died from a crash landing!

The closest available secure surface was our mailbox, about 6 feet away. I tried to encourage the fly to go to it, but as the fly put one leg onto it there was a sense of “no way, I’m not going on that thing!” while the fly retracted the leg and stayed attached to my finger. I realized that our mailbox is painted white, exactly like my car. I could understand why to this fly that might not seem appealing, given what it had just been through!

I knelt down and moved my hand close to a large rock at the base of our mailbox. All the while the fly’s wings had been fluttering a little. When the fly touched the surface of the rock with its leg, the wings surged in what to me was a joyful flurry of movement! The fly released my fingertip and walked onto the rock with a definite “pep” in its step.

The nature of life is such that, occasionally a single experience can hold deep meaning.

This experience with the fly taught me something profound…maybe more than one thing.

It taught me that there are many options when confronted with suffering. That sometimes we have to be careful not to do more damage when we try to help. That some flies’ legs are so tiny they can hold me and I can’t even feel them!

And that offering a source of strength and letting a suffering being take hold and release themselves can be way more powerful and more effective than trying to do it for them. As someone who struggles with codependency this lesson was perhaps the most valuable. And as a person who has dedicated much of my career to non-profit, “people-helping” types of work, this lesson was the most important.

My heart still swells when I remember those tiny legs taking hold of my fingertip.

(Photo used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).


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