Several years ago, my granddaughter and her father came from Lansing, Michigan, to Phoenix, AZ, to visit grandpa and grandma. We planned a series of events for their one full day of activity with us that included a visit to “Butterfly Wonderland.” Butterfly Wonderland is incredible; you get to travel through a room with hundreds of incredibly beautiful monarch butterflies. If you can make the trip, come and experience Butterfly Wonderland, I highly suggest the visit!
When we visited, I gave my cell phone camera to my granddaughter, and she filled the phone with pictures of various butterflies. One particular butterfly has remained with me, not for the butterfly’s beauty, which was gorgeous, but because of the dramatic story of a toddler 2-3 years old, a Koi Pond, and how the toddler rescued the butterfly.
I have no idea how the butterfly got into the Koi Pond. I entirely missed the beginning of this story. I noticed the little boy because my danger button had been triggered with children and bodies of water. Thus, I watched warily and enthralled as the drama unfolded. The little boy was visibly upset; he wanted his mom to rescue the butterfly and actively worked to try and gain her attention, all to no avail. The boy then tried to keep the Koi fish away from the butterfly. He waved his arms; he moved his hands closer to the water to shoo the fish, he threw what he could wrap his hands around. But that did not work too well, and the boy became more visibly upset at the peril of the butterfly. Finally, the little boy settled onto a plan; you saw his plan take shape on his face, intention entered his eyes, and he designed a potential solution. He stretched himself onto the low wall of the Koi Pond until his chest was squarely on the ledge of the wall; he extended his body and arm and fingers towards the butterfly, and at the absolute end of his stretch, he could just barely come within a distance of the stranded butterfly.
You saw the butterfly tentatively stretch towards the hand of the boy. Unsure about the safety of accepting help but being stranded, the help offered became apparent to the butterfly and was accepted. The butterfly extended a feeler or two, and the toddler could pluck the butterfly from the water.
The butterfly, visibly exhausted from trying to free itself from the Koi Pond water, clung for dear life to this little boy’s middle finger. The little boy, realizing he had the butterfly, gently pulled himself back, and gently placed the butterfly onto the edge of the wall, away from danger. Still wanting to help, the little boy watched the butterfly. He did not try to touch the butterfly’s wings, as I expected. He continued to try and gain mom’s attention to “help the butterfly be better,” and he waited and attentively watched for the butterfly to gather strength. You could see the hope for the butterfly written in the eyes and face of this toddler. He cared and wanted the butterfly to be okay.
All actions I never suspected a little toddler would do, this toddler did. He was very patient with this resting butterfly, even shooing other butterflies away who might interrupt the rest of the recovering butterfly, including final shooing motions to the Koi fish who gathered at the base of the wall where the boy and the butterfly were. After a period of minutes, the butterfly began flexing it’s now dry wings and shortly flew further into a nesting area to rest more and eat. Mom collected the toddler, and they strolled through the rest of the exhibits. The little boy never looked back after the butterfly flew away; he seemed to become interested in other things and talked happily with mom. What he said was standard toddler, but I cannot help but wonder at the story he told.
Why do I remember this story and event so well?
In a recent post on virtues to live by, I encouraged you, the audience, to see people. The story of the monarch butterfly and the toddler is one of my favorite stories of “seeing people.” Watching the stories of life unfold around me. Being present in the moment to record, understand, and then reflect upon what is witnessed, and hopefully, in the recollecting, help others to “see people.”
More, this story represents something to me, the power of desire to help and the boldness of action. That little boy could have wound up in the water and in peril but didn’t. That monarch butterfly could have been eaten by the Koi fish in the pond, long before this drama unfolded; but was not consumed by the multitude of fish that swam around the butterfly. The mother could have been more attentive to her toddler and rescued the butterfly for him; but, luckily for us, she remained unresponsive.
To watch the ideas, thoughts, planning, etc., cross the face of this toddler as he tried to use his resources to rescue the butterfly was wonderful to behold. I learned a lot about watching this toddler that I never expected to learn. For example, toddlers can be interested in the world around them, to the point of spurning them to act. I never witnessed a child this young perform a selfless act, intentionally, with planning and forethought.
Research would tell me these experiences cannot happen, or only happen rarely a statistical anomaly, and more. Yet, I believe in the human spark, the human animal’s intelligence to think, reason, and act. Best of all, in all my years of human observation, I know without a doubt, this was not a singular event.
The event was surprising. The event was singular to the toddler and this butterfly, but the pattern of intentional action, selfless action, interested planning, and forethought were not singular actions among children. I have witnessed children as young as 4 observe another child crying and try to comfort that child. But, never as young as 2-3.
One particular incident involving young, toddler age children, 2-5 years old, occurred in a hospital emergency room situation. The younger children cried along with the child who was injured. The older children gathered around with looks of deep concern, thoughtfulness, and a desire to act. Race did not matter; sex did not matter, boys and girls had their attentions set upon what was happening; a young child was in peril, and they wanted to help comfort the child. Over the space of a few hours, while doctors and nurses rushed about, came in and out, and administered to the child’s injuries, little toys started showing up on the injured child’s bed. A small dinosaur, a car, a book, a fluffy bunny, and other small items came out of pockets and parents’ bags and became gifts for the little injured child. The mother of the wounded child witnessed this miracle, tried to return some items. But eventually allowed the giving to continue unabated through the night. Other children came and went, some offered help, others noticed and were enraptured by the drama for a spell, almost in the attitude of praying for the injured child.
The atmosphere was tangibly different when the children stood enthralled and watched caregivers working to help the injured child. The best I can describe the feeling, stand in the middle of a church, be silent, watch and observe all around you, and slowly a sense comes over you that is difficult to explain but lifts you to a higher level of consciousness. Multiply that feeling exponentially, and you have what was witnessed this night in the Emergency Room when children became aware of an injured child and stood enthralled and selflessly observant for a moment.
What has this story to do with NO MORE BS?
It is a pattern for us on multiple levels. We can choose to see people, and in seeing people play that influential role of helper, friend, mentor, coach, caregiver, or simply listening ear and recognizing eye. We can act locally for great good. We can follow these children’s examples and chose to exercise that divine spark within us, reach out, and make a small difference somewhere. We can encourage good!
As kids, we were told if you tried your absolute best, you are not a loser. You tried, you strove, your acted, and all of these are worthwhile, even if you failed. Yet, as adults, we seem to have forgotten this lesson, we have neglected to pass the lesson along, and in forgetting, we lose a part of ourselves that is precious and childlike. We lose the ability of trust and confidence. Trusting that our efforts can influence outcomes. We lose the confidence of directed, planned, prepared action choosing to act selflessly to fulfill desires.
The toddler and the butterfly powerfully reflect the desire to help, coupled with a plan of action; after all other resources were exhausted, success was saving a life. To that toddler, that butterfly’s life was precious, and help was needed urgently. The New Testament, Luke 12:6-7, records:
“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
To that toddler, that precious sparrow was a butterfly in need. Replicating these verses of scripture on the value of helping others, seeing people, and being essential to a power greater than us all.
I want to affirm, in words of truth and soberness, that all effort is appreciated. Every small act of learning, growing, helping, and being neighborly is critical and vital to improving our society. That butterfly was vital to that toddler, those gifts from children had value beyond the price of the item given away, and we can replicate this pattern! Some have asked what can I do, the enemy is too powerful; the answer is always the same, do something! Improve your knowledge through reading, exploring writing, attending a school board meeting, raising your voice, voting in every election smarter and more empowered, standing when the flag passes and standing for the National anthem. You know best what you can do, do that action, and you will make a difference!
Remember the toddler and the butterfly, like the butterfly, we often need the toddler, and frequently, we can be the toddler to another butterfly! The pictures featured come from my Granddaughter or myself at Butterfly Wonderland.
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds copyright to the butterfly photos displayed.