I grew up with a fascination for wildlife from as early as I can remember. I collected caterpillars, caught bumblebees, captured leopard frogs, toyed with toads, netted butterflies, inspected beetles and ladybugs, played with kittens, held baby bunnies, scouted for crayfish, swam for turtles, spotted birds (and their nests), picked up snakes, peddled grasshoppers (seriously, I sold them for 25c at a garage sale once. 50c for the red-winged ones), carried baby geese and ducks, petted dogs, horses, cows and cats.

I still love animals. Alyssa doesn’t let me keep any nowadays, but I watch and observe and sometimes see something new from time to time.

Do animals have spirits? We don’t have the technology to know this, but what they do possess is instinct and as King Solomon writes, some have wisdom.

The first thing I’ve learned from animals is: They never give up.

If you were an ant and you gave up, you would probably get kicked out of your colony. Not only that, but it would probably end in your death (no testing has been done to prove this point and no animals were harmed in the writing of this blog ***except for the fruit fly that wouldn’t stop flying in front of my face.)

Most of this is instinct, but the Bible suggests we look at the ant and LEARN what we can. “Ants — they aren’t strong, but they store up food all summer” Proverbs 30:24-25. Our culture looks for the strong ones, the greatest, the most beautiful or influential. I would like to see our world with more ant-like people. Ones that just do the work they know needs to be done and spend less time trying to be different or cool. I have observed tens of thousands of ants in my 28 years and have also noticed their persistence in getting where they are going. Have you ever put your foot down in front of an ant? They bump into it, but never stop moving even if their obstacle keeps moving in front of them. Eventually, the obstacle (my foot) grows tired of trying to redirect the ant and they proceed with the same optimistic verve.

Crayfish (or crawdads as y’all call em) are a poor man’s lobster. We used to dive for them at my Grandma’s lake cabin. We would have an old glove on one hand and usually a butterfly net in the other (until we got fancy later and bought proper equipment). My cousin Jeff and I were pretty much experts in our field, but sometimes there was no way to catch a crayfish. The ones that got away were always those that stayed close to their dugout under a big rock. Some rocks could be moved aside, but usually when a crayfish got underneath a real heavy one or a pile of rocks, we gave up.

The second lesson to learn: Don’t stray far away from your protection

What does that mean? Well, in my life, protection could be defined in my faith, family and friends. If the people who I love (and have invested in me) are disagreeing with a life choice I am making, then I should at least hear them out. To ignore them would be to stray away from my protection. As for faith, if I start to live my life against the grain of God’s word, then I risk being hurt, misled, or even worse: being boiled to a bright red in a pot.

The third lesson from animals: Invest in the next generation

Have you ever seen a bird build a nest? It is a ridiculous and wonderful thing. You’ll see a Carolina wren with some stick twice as long as its body darting into a bird house to fashion a wooden donut. Some birds use anything soft they can find: fur, feathers, yarn, etc. They will spend days building their nest to make sure that their offspring has the best chance of survival. Can you imagine knitting a scarf with your mouth? That is what some birds basically do with their nest (google “southern masked weaver”.) Then, after the eggs hatch, they spend almost all of their time keeping their young fed and protected. Don’t believe me? Try getting real close to a robin’s nest when mama bird is close. They’ll poke your eyes out, kid!

As my wife and I have raised Olson, I have learned to invest in him. Yes, I have moments of selfishness where I do what I feel like doing even at his expense. But, a bird never does this. Their babies are gold to them. We need to start treating our young ones (and other’s for that matter) with great care and value. Our character is not only important for our livelihood but also for the ones coming after us.