The Ride-Along Grasshopper

A True Tale of Life, Death, and Communal Salvation


I had a sense of foreboding when I walked out of my back door and saw, lying face up in a pool of rainwater gathered in a plastic bucket, a dead grasshopper. It was a big fella, too (or ma’moiselle – I didn’t bother to check).

I didn’t know quite what to do, but it didn’t seem right to leave it there, so I poured the grasshopper out with the water on the back yard. I muttered a quick “blessed be” under my breath. Some other critter would appreciate the corpse, and whatever there was of its eternal soul already rested, no doubt, in the good hands of whoever’s picking up upstairs.

I thought that was the end of the story, but moments later I discovered another grasshopper, a live one, on the driver’s side door of my car. It was this big:


But it looked this big:


When you consider I had to open my door and get in, that it one heckuva grasshopper. It appeared in front of me like a lead blocker for the Chicago Bears, only hairier and with more legs.

Reader, I ignored him. I opened the door, slammed it shut, and headed out on my way. As soon as I started into gear, I assumed that would be the last I saw of it. Objects in motion would go there separate ways, and I could go about my day.

Only the grasshopper had other ideas. It hung on to the side of that door for dear life. Or maybe it was a joyride for the timorous little beastie, I don’t know. 20, 25, 30, 40 miles per hour, it was unmoved on the side of the door. It loomed large in my driver’s side mirror.

I drove slower after that; hit the brakes carefully and gradually ahead of every red light. I sensed something: I had an inkling that the longer the situation remained the same, the more something within me was changing. Namely, I was slowly but surely identifying with my companion. The grasshopper was becoming significant to me.

Which in turn meant, according to the mutable laws of compassion, that my life and its life were now intertwined. This was more true, in a practical sense, for the little guy – unless I became so transfixed at staring at it in the mirror that I careened into an eighteen-wheeler, my life wasn’t in the feelers of the grasshopper. But even so, it had the power to make me feel bad for playing a role in its demise, were it to fall off my car.

I’m a softhearted fool, I realize.  And a hypocritical one at that: I’m not vegetarian. But it’s one thing to enjoy a meal, knowing that some animal has died for it, and it’s another to know some animal has been squished because I wanted to go 5 miles per hour faster while running an insignificant errand.

In other words, we were in this one together. A blogger and a grasshopper, their fates intertwined in some random, cosmic, and all-too-tangible way.

Once I realized this basic connection, my next act was obvious. I pulled over, on the streets of Hellertown, and turned off the car. The grasshopper was still clinging to the side of the car. Then I opened my door, rather violently. Still the grasshopper remained. Perhaps it had business in Lower Saucon, as I did, but even my compassion has its limits. I flicked it with a finger, caring but firm, and, at last, it took a giant leap off my door.

And landed right behind my rear wheel.

Since I was parked behind another car, were I to drive off now, my only choice would have been to run it over. So our relationship, apparently, wasn’t over yet. I found a bit of paper in my car, and, with a little creative shimmying, ushered the grasshopper to what I hoped was safety. And our time together had reached an end.

But that grasshopper had accompanied me all the way to the depths of Hellertown (sorry, terrible pun). We had lived together, companions of the road trip, during a few minutes punctuated by terror, determination, and cooperation. I don’t know what, if any of this, registered in its grasshopper consciousness: whether it will, one day, tell its grandkids of the days of racing down the street in some darn fool’s automobile.

For me, it’s just a small story.  But it’s a good reminder we’re all in this together on life’s highway. Thank God for places to pull over now and again.

Monday Meditation: How are you connected to the other species of the Lehigh Valley? Who’s riding with you?