The woman’s voice was frantic as she called across the yard to me.
I hurried over to her with uncertainly in my steps, not sure what lay in store for me. Having moved into our house just weeks before, I had met the neighbor just once. Our second meeting, and a call of distress.
When I reached her, she poignantly pointed toward the ground. There, at a respectable distance away, lay a two-foot long black snake.
“Do you know what kind it is,” she asked.
I claimed ignorance: “No, I’m not sure. Maybe a garter?”
She assured me it was not.
“I’ve lived here ten years and have never seen something that size.”
Now she had me worried. The kids were playing on the other side of the forsythia bushes. What if this little fellah was venomous?
Before I knew it, the woman had rushed to her garage and returned with a shovel. She handed it to me without saying a word, as if our joint course of action was both inevitable and mutually agreed upon.
Again, before I knew it, I had the shovel over my head and sent it traveling toward the snake.
“Sorry, buddy,” I lamented as he lay there motionless.
Soon after, I returned home and went to the computer to identify what I had killed. The irony of going to the digital world to identify with the natural one was not lost on me.
I typed in “garter snake.”
The first photo that popped up on the screen confirmed what I already knew in my heart. I had killed a harmless garter snake. The caption to the photo rightfully fueled my guilt:
“Snakes are among the most misunderstood of all animals. As a result, many harmless, beneficial snakes have met untimely deaths at the hands of shovel-wielding humans.”
Guilty as charged.
Regret filled my heart even as the shovel traveled toward the ground, and remorse filled my heart now. What had the snake done but be found?
In a weak moment – one fueled by misunderstanding, ignorance, fear, and a male ego that felt it necessary to fulfill this new neighbor’s wishes – I had killed.
Sadly enough, I believe these are the very same reasons we all kill, nations and individuals alike. Misunderstanding and ignorance, a fear of the unknown, and our collective ego.
It begs the question: who is the snake?