I don’t know if it’s global warming or sloppy housekeeping or perhaps the price we pay to live in sunny California, but my house is swarming with ants. When we wake each morning to find an army of them scouting out a new area, we find ourselves singing that old camp song, “The ants go marching two by two…” If only they were limited to two by two!
And they appear in places where there is ostensibly no food – desktops and bathrooms. Their resourcefulness is amazing. As is their ability to, seemingly, notify their whole community of the location of a particularly delicious aroma or tasty crumb.
It’s crazy-making. And no one seems to know how to get rid of them. Especially in these older homes with so many ports of entry.
After weeks of doing battle with them – and losing – and many days of Shabbos and Yom Tov where I should be rewarded for my restraint (!), I’ve decided to step back and ponder the situation more thoughtfully.
Maybe there is something to learn here (other than working on my anger and frustration!), and maybe, just maybe, if I learn the lesson, they will leave. (Is that too much to ask?)
We know that we can learn about loyalty from dogs. Surely ants can teach us some positive character traits as well.
Ants are famed for their industriousness. Long before I crawl out of bed, they are up and at ‘em searching inside my dishwasher for that one piece of food we neglected to rinse off. They are not just hard workers – they never stop! And they are determined. Even the smallest crumb (albeit large in their eyes) seems worth of their effort. They are – dare I say it? – an inspiration. Who knew?! And here I’ve been thinking that they are just an annoyance.
There is also something to be said for their unity, their ability to work together. Not being intimately acquainted with the inner workings of an ant colony, I don’t know if there are power struggles – and egos – and points of principle – the kinds of things that hamper our ability to work effectively as one and that hurt the Jewish people. They certainly seem to be able to rally together for the cause, a cause that appears to be trivial – a cookie crumb, a sliver of barbecued meat. And they come out in large numbers. It’s actually quite impressive. No need to purchase those expensive ant colony kits – just come over and watch.
Joking aside, these lessons from the ants are actually very real and very important. As individuals and as a people, we would benefit from modeling these behaviors (aside from the crawling on the countertops!). And it’s giving me pause, and something to think about…
I can’t say I’ve internalized all the positive qualities and behaviors. But I get it. I’m refocused and re-energized and thinking about how to create more unity in our nation. The ants can leave now (please). They’ve served their purpose. I hate to appear cruel or ungrateful but if anyone has any ant extermination tips, please let me know!