The other day I walked by a worm writhing violently on the wet pavement of the commuter parking lot. How in the world did he get there? At first I thought maybe he was a casualty of some clumsy bird’s lunch. But no. There wasn’t any blood. He must have gotten there himself. How long did it take him to get there? I stopped to observe his pace. At the moment, he didn’t seem to be moving in any particular direction. So to get a clue as to where he might be coming from, I tried to figure out which end was his head. Call it the journalist in me…but I had questions and I wanted answers. There’s always a question to be asked and an answer to be found.
This is not my first parking lot worm sighting. After a generous night of showers, the sidewalks and parking lots take on a battlefield atmosphere with all the curled, crispy worm corpses (they kind of look like those dry noodle things you can put on your salad at buffet-style restaurants.) Looking back on the number of times I’ve witness a worm out of his element (apparently of his own volition), I’ve come to wonder if the suicidal tendencies of worms is worth looking into. It isn’t the first time the question has crossed my mind.
Worms on sidewalks are not unusual. Especially in residential areas where boasting finely manicured flower beds and plush lawns flanking the walk ways. I mean, you can always rest your mind assuming they washed out of someone’s garden, hugging the sidewalk nearby. But a parking lot? The nearest landscape was a good 11 paces away. And that’s just a bee line estimate. There’s also the fact that the parking lot is livid with worm endangering obstacles, like slick oil spots, medians, the sidewalk ledges and that cement slab – brick thing that is supposed to keep cars from pulling up onto the curb. To us 11 steps doesn’t seem like much, but in worm terms – that’s like the Exodus. That’s like 40 years worth of wiggling; aimless and lost in the scorching light of day. Crawling across a – whatever – because, well, they don’t have eyes so they can’t know where they are or where they are going. I mean, in short, that sucks.
I looked down at the worm, a fat noodle the length of an unsharpened No. 2 pencil, squirming at my feet. By this time I’d decided that the end that was moving the most must be the head because, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember enough of 8th grade science class to know how to determine which end was the head. And I thought it unlikely that I had encountered a new species of worm that wags its end like a tail. No. There’s no such thing as a dog worm. So the hyper-wiggling end must be the head.
Confident in my decision, I looked to see which direction he had come from. Assuming this worm wasn’t doing donuts in the parking lot and that he’d just made a straight path to his current location next to an aqua marine Toyota Corolla with an “Alaska Girls Kick Ass” bumper sticker, I surveyed the most likely path – and Holy Hannah! This worm is more of a trooper than I thought! This worm – this warrior worm writing curvy letters on the black pavement with its spineless body, must be a phenomenon.
I laughed at the possibilities held within this worm for numerous 3-point sermons and self-help inspirational stories. The analogy that a short, soft spoken counselor or therapist might tell you as another way of saying “keep you chin up kid,” or “you see, the most unlikely characters can accomplish the most amazing things.” This worm was like some Aesop Fable or Oriental proverb: “A worm in a parking lot is a worthy opponent.”
I can see at least three metaphors in this worm’s situation:
1. We are the worm – the lowest of the low. We are lost and helpless in the vast parking lots of our lives; the dark, ugly, dangerous plane of our sin. But wait! There’s hope. There’s a way to escape. There can be a rescue. God is the good, grace-filled hand that can pluck us up and take us to the rich, moist, secure soil of Heaven. The soil that He has prepared for you. A mixture rich with nutrients and minerals, and everything you could ever want.
2. We are the ‘me’ in the situation. I come upon this helpless, innocent creature. This lowly worm that doesn’t really serve any great purpose other than baiting hooks, feeding birds or mix up soil to expedite decomposition and produce brilliant smiling petunias. This creature’s status in the ladder of the world’s society is no secret. Yet, are our heart’s not pulled to sympathy at the apparent vulnerability of this vulnerable soul? In this story, we are confronted with a Samaritan-like decision. Do we humble ourselves for those in need? Have we not been given the necessary compassion by God, to reach out and help those in need? Enough said.
3. This worm is not a lowly creature! This particular worm is an example. An example of the potential brewing inside all of us. He is the unique outlier of his species: a renegade, an adventurer. He has ventured outside his “comfort zone” to brave perils of the unknown. He has squirmed out in blind faith – ensued vulnerability to serve the greater good of the worm community – to step up as an example of strength and character.

Yes, there was a wealth of possible cliché, sophomoric, Babysitter Club-like stories in this worm. But I wasn’t about to lower my literary standards to promote that kind of garbage. No sir. I am a product of higher education. Lord have mercy on me if I’m ever caught subscribing to the idealistic pithiness of grocery store novelists. That’d be like signing my tune to the death list of pop culture; the radio line-up of over-played songs.

Okay, I think I’ve overstated my point. The end.

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