The Day I Saved a Drowning Bug and Why

insects want to have a great life too!

A few days ago as I brushed my teeth in the morning a miracle happened just before my eyes.

I turned the tap in the bathroom sink and as the water strarted gushing out, I saw a tiny speck swirling about in the rushing water. I jumped and quickly plugged the sinkhole and switched off the water.

I looked more closely and the tiny speck was indeed a tiny bug. I am not sure what swimming stroke it was doing, but it was certainly very frantic and inelegant.

I grabbed a piece of tissue paper and as gently as I could I rescued the bug from the water and started blowing on it as softly as I could, hoping to dry it out and bringing it back to life.

All this happened within seconds and I hoped against hope that the bug would survive the surprise drowning it got, whilst it was simply sunbathing in the morning sunlight filtering through the bathroom window.

As I looked at the bug, it looked so still and there was no sign of any life. I felt sadness and remorse that I had extinguished one little life.

I resumed my teeth brushing and even wondered if I should say a prayer for my departed little friend. Then from the corner of my eye I saw a slight movement on the window sill.

The bug was still alive!

It had dried out, recovered from the  “flood” and was now slowly moving around on the tissue paper. I guess in insect land, it would be moving the same way a human moves after regaining consciousness upon fainting.

As I watched, the tiny bug walked around for a while and then a few seconds later it took off just like a helicopter does.

I was filled with relief and joy and my happiness surpassed the level of my sadness from only a few seconds before. I felt that I had just played “god” and had given life back to something. The rest of that day I was on a sheer high.

So what is the lesson here for us?

Well, firstly, it shows that we have deep compassion within us and it extends to all creatures, small and large.

Also, we can indeed play god and make a significant difference to all those around us if we choose to do so. It was also a lesson in trusting, letting go and putting it in the hands of a greater power, whatever form that higher power takes for you.

I now look out for little insects in my sink every time before I open the tap!

On a broader scale, we can also show more kindness and compassion to all those around us.

“Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike – each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.”Buddha

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama

Compassion is about putting yourself in the shoes of the other person and seeing the world from their perspective. It is about feeling their pain and empowering them to be their best. It is not about pity or patronizing.

What we need to do is replace any thoughts of anger hatred and the wish to give harm with thoughts of tolerance, respect, loving kindness and a wish to only benefit others.

When in your life have you showed compassion to others?

What did you learn?

Spend a few minutes right now and recall a time when you have shown kindness and compassion to someone. Didn’t you just feel great afterwards?

Also, compassion is not at all about carrying out grand acts such as saving a life – you can show kindness in small ways too. Even when you give some directions to someone lost, you feel wonderful for having been able to help someone.

You don’t even need to travel half way around the world to make a difference to someone. Indeed compassion begins at home.

Finally, you can learn about compassion from other people in your life, you just have to slow down, become present and more aware.

Check out what I learnt about compassion from my own father.

How will you bring more compassion into the world today?

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  1. Arvind, I feel your compassion in your voice here. And it matters. Although I am not a bug in a drain:),I am not more than a bug in a drain, in many ways.

    • Thanks Lisa – in the scheme of things we are all the same, whether we take the form of a bug or a human:-)

      Either way, our life can be extinguished so easily and quickly.

  2. I appreciate this amusing story but more importantly, your message of compassion speaks to me. So much about practicing compassion toward others, as hard or as low-priority it may be at times, also benefits us.

    Being compassionate generates a good deal of positive feelings and, in the finite amount of time that we have in our little space between the earth and sky, anything less just doesn’t seem to be the way to go.

    • Belinda, you really hit on the nail by mentioning that we only have a finite amount of time between the earth and the sky. So why not just spend our time here being compassionate towards others?

      It is also important to be compassionate towards ourselves, though in the scheme of things, we are no better or more important than the tiniest bug.

      You have also put it nicely that once we finish our business, we will hopefully end up in the sky!

  3. this is very true, i have also faced the same situation before when i went to my bathroom at early morning and found more than 50 small ant roaming around. I though that if i took bath here than all ant will die,I came out and took shower in another bathroom. The feeling was different at that time, i was thinking that my small step saved few life.

    • Jignesh, great story about saving 50+ ants. I guess living in India does have such joys!

      Here in the UK, we only get ants in the summer time and when I visit my mother’s home, I am so aware of all the tiny ants crawling around in her garden. The neighbours must find it funny the way I hop around trying to avoid crushing them!

      I guess each hop and each step makes a difference to those ants.

  4. Justin- says

    I can definitely relate to your story, as I’ve done similar things myself. I would also challenge that one be confidently compassionate, and act on that.

    • Justin, great point about being compassionate in a confidential manner. At least that’s what I think you mean!

      There really is no need to make a song and dance about carrying out a compassionate act. We do so because we want to and not because we want to look good.

      By the way, does my post here about saving a bug constitute looking good?!

      I sincerely hope not:-)

      • fiona O'Hanlon says

        Re. Making a “song and dance” and “Looking Good”.

        I think everyone knows you were describing an intimate moment of awareness regarding the nature of compassion. It obviously resonates with many of us, so thank you Arvind.

        • Thanks Fiona – I feel better now:-)

          • Justin- says

            Alright let me clarify. I do mean confidently, but that is not the same thing as tooting your own horn. I mean there are some people that are shy about doing even something good, because they don’t think they have the right to, or they don’t think they are enough. Its confidence that we have the ability to do the right thing, and that there is something that can be done.

            • Thanks for clarifying Justin – confidence is clearly key in making things happen and especially where it comes to doing good and helping others.

  5. fiona O'Hanlon says

    As a fellow “Bug Lifesaving person” I can idenfitfy completely. The message I give to myself and my daughter are that we are not any more or less significan than the “bug” in the sink. We are all part of the earths life force and each as precious as the smallest or greatest of it all. I believe that every act of kindness, when we save a life or reach out to someone in trouble, will for a while at least have brought a light to an otherwise often dark world.

    • Fiona, you are clearly a person after my heart!

      All I can say is that you have a lucky daughter to have such a great parent and teacher:-)

      And yes, we can all bring more light into the world in our own small or big way.

  6. One of the main things I think is overlooked is teaching this to children.

    My son (4 next month) has a deep respect for small creatures such as worms, spiders, bees and flies and is keen to help them get out of the house and “go back to their own home”. It shows that fear of spiders is an irrational transmitted one too, the parent is fearful so the child is too. Oliver will carefully pick them up and take them outside onto a flower because he’s seen me do it.

    • Ayd, thanks for visiting my blog and for your first ever comment.

      What great lessons Oliver and you can teach the world about compassion. Oliver is lucky to have you as a father and he will clearly grow up into a very compassionate human being.

      I know so many people with an irrational fear of spiders – and as you say it is passed on by the parents.

      So yes, we need more parents to pass on their own lessons of compassion towards all beings. The key is clearly to have developed that compassion yourself first before you can pass it on to to others including children.

  7. Hello, this is my first time I landed on your green tosca blog.
    Wow (I drop my jaw), there’re too many things I want to say about the moving story you posted above but I guess it’s magnificent, indeed..
    I couldn’t agree more when you said “we can indeed play god”. Compassion is a divine trait a human being has to have. Although we’re not God, we can play god if we want to.
    Just remembered a song by Jean Osborne (if I’m not mistaken) …what if God is one of us..? ^_^

    • Welcome Akhlis and thanks for your comment.

      But just exactly what is a green tosca?!

      You are correct about that song by Joan Osborne – and here are the lyrics:-

      If God had a name what would it be?
      And would you call it to his face?
      If you were faced with him
      In all his glory
      What would you ask if you had just one question?

      *And yeah, yeah, God is great
      Yeah, yeah, God is good
      Yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah

      What if God was one of us?
      Just a slob like one of us
      Just a stranger on the bus
      Trying to make his way home

      If God had a face what would it look like?
      And would you want to see
      If seeing meant that
      you would have to believe
      in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints
      and all the prophets (*)

      Trying to make his way home
      Back up to heaven all alone
      Nobody calling on the phone
      ‘cept for the Pope maybe in Rome(*)

      Just trying to make his way home
      Like a holy rolling stone
      Back up to heaven all alone
      Just trying to make his way home
      Nobody calling on the phone
      ‘cept for the Pope maybe in Rome


      PS A lot of people are not sure about the concept of a “god” and I know it brings up a lot of thorny issues.

      But what if there really was a god? And maybe there is a god in all of us anyway:-)

      • Green tosca? owh,so sorry, there might be something wrong with my browser. Here in my browser your blog’s background looks tosca. Or maybe I’m color blind? think I should have my eyes checked ^_^
        Well, I had no idea you’re Osbourne’s huge fan. I heard that song long time ago when I was a kid (in the late 1980’s?).
        Thorny issues? Of course not. Barbed issues sounds better..Thorn is too small and harmless to kill people..Barb, especially rusty ones, can make us contract tetanus…owhh, what am I saying?sorry, I’m rambling or drunk commenting ^_^
        I don’t really care about god’s existence or whereabouts, the most important thing is I can feel His existence.

        • Thanks Akhlis for clarifying what you meant about Green Tosca – I had no idea that’s what it looked like. Maybe you can send me a screenshot of my blog!

          As for Joan Osborne’s song, it has some great lyrics.

          I love your distinction between thorny and barbed issues:-)

          As you say, you dont to need whether god exists or where he/she is, but just feel his/her existence.

          How can we be sure whether god is a he/she/it?!

          • haha, who cares about the correct pronoun we must use to refer to god or God (whichever you want). It’s not grammar lesson after all. ^_^
            screenshot of your blog? perhaps someday..But actually, I’m not really sure it’s tosca. Oh, just realized I’m sometimes bad at recognizing colors

  8. Arvind, again a beautiful example, that it is about the small things, that we understand our true nature and our innate powers.

    Experiencing the compassion for a small bug and being able to help it was such a great way to start a day, what if we could live every day with that feeling.

    And compassion can be in so many forms. It can be in helping a good friend who failed an exam (recently) just as it could be by helping through charity 4 children around the globe leading a better life.

    • Patrick, if more of us could start every day and live every day from a perspective of compassion for all things, small and large, can you just imagine how the world would change overnight?!

      It only needs a few of us to start living like this…..:-)

      As for helping children around the world through charity I am all for that, but am more and more coming to the conclusion that we need to give them a hand up, not a hand out.

      That’s a topic for another blog post soon.

  9. Awww Arvind…that bought tears to my eyes….i have done that so often with little bugs in my bathroom…………:)

    • Gul, our tears when inspired by such stories just show that deep down we are compassionate, caring and kind souls.

      And actually not even that deep down for everyone. It is just that most of us are too scared to show our true caring, compassionate, vulnerable side.

      But when we do so, we come alive by showing our true, authentic and loving shelves:-)

  10. A little bug in a little tissue of paper! So… it’s not my habit only 🙂 Thank yo Arvind, it’s a delightful metaphore to talk about compassion.

  11. Madeleine Kolb says

    Hi Arvind, I had no idea that there were other Bug Savers out there. I often sav e spiders and bugs that get into the house and liberate them outside. It’s good to know that other people do such things.

    I’m not particularly religious, but I have huge respect for living things, probably from studying zoology in my student days. I’ll never forget the professor who brought in a rattle snake and fed it a mouse, so that we could see how the snake’s jaw opened wide and then closed over its prey. Some in the class was repulsed, but our professor said, “The snake’s just trying to make a living, like everyone else.”

    • Madeleine, it seems that are lots of us bug savers out there!

      As for the snake being fed the mouse, I can see both viewpoints, but would preferred it if the professor has just fed the snake a large chunk of meat. But then again the demonstration would not have been as memorable as it clearly was:-(

  12. This piece is so timely. There is a spider (A mahooooooosive one may I add) living in my kitchen. I see it every few days. I let it be and always say hello. I’ve always had trouble causing harm to insects after watching ‘Charlotte’s Web’ when I was a young kid.


    • Amit, great story about your spider kitchen mate. Clearly likes your cooking – or maybe it is keeping the flies away:-)

      But how compassionate is it to allow the flies in your kitchen to be eaten by your spider?!

  13. LOL hmmmm it’s all part of the circle of life. Your fly will undoubtedly feast on the smaller ‘unseen’ bugs too! 🙂

    • Amit, yes and so the circle of life goes on and on.

      We can only do our own thing as much as we can – such as by saving a bug in a tissue or refraining from eating animals:-)

  14. I think it’s quite easy to have compassion when your mind is in the right frame of mind. But we, as biological humans have natural needs such as sex that override that compassion.. I often feel sexual desire is the opposite of compassion, or at least prevents the cultivation of compassion.

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