This is going to be a long class.
“You are still yourselves, dear ones, and I will change you back to your former bodies as soon as this lesson is complete.” The dragonfly that is our teacher flutters over us before joining us, but we are not in the classroom today. “It is such a beautiful day,” he had said while leading us toward the butterfly garden. He waved his hand and the transformation began.
All I remember next is watching an almost-extinct Miami Blue Butterfly fluttering around the yellow flowers of a Grey Nicker vine. I remember being amazed that it seemed to be growing in size until I realized I was shrinking.
“In case you can’t tell,” he says now, “we have become inchworms.”
“Worms?” screeches Hope. She returned to class today to say her official good-byes before her graduation.
I’m certain she regrets that now.
She is not the only one disgusted. Another student, the one wearing a miniature black hoodie similar to the one worn by Accepted Outsider, makes a sound as if she’s gagging. “Slimy, creepy worms … I hate worms.”
“What the hell, dude?” Irreverent Student makes a move as if to walk away. He’s a worm. The quick exit he was planning becomes a challenge. Standing upright, he flicks the half-dozen or so legs on the upper half on his caterpillar body. “This full-immersion lesson sucks the big one. I want out.”
During the gripe session, Teacher inched around us much faster than I thought caterpillars could move. The Teacher’s-Pet in me wants to speak up for the Dragonfly, but it’s as if my thoughts move just as slowly as my body. Finally, “Let’s give him a chance to explain, guys.”
He clears his throat on cue.
“Um, ladies and gentlemen.” His caterpillar mouth gives a worm-like grin.
“Not funny, Teach.”
“Actually, it is very funny. This is temporary, at least until the lesson is learned.”
Irreverent Student, who has not relaxed one bit and remains at attention, does not feel the need to change his ways now, “This is crap. Just tell us what we’re supposed to learn so we can get on with it.”
“Very well.” He transforms into a worm-sized human and walks circles around us. “Before today, if you were to come across a worm inching its way across the floor and obviously heading toward the garden, would you have helped him across?”
He waits for an answer but most of my classmates seem to have the same slow thought-process as I’ve recognized in myself.
“Gauging by your reactions to being transformed today, I supoose your answer is no, you wouldn’t have tried to help. You would have probably thought it was the worm’s personal challenge to conquer.”
I finally gather my thoughts. “But wouldn’t our help have ruined whatever lesson the worm had to learn? Aren’t our life-lessons for us to learn and conquer on our own? I mean, if we helped the worms, they would never learn the importance of choosing a safe time to cross, right?”
Some of my classmates nod their little worm heads, many, though, just wait for teacher’s answer.
“That is the assumption I believed you would make.” He transforms himself into the dragonfly and hovers overhead. “What if I were to return to the classroom to wait for you to make your way back inside? This is a lesson for you, actually.”
“But that’s not fair,” Hope says. “What lesson would we learn if we get squashed before we make it back?”
“Exactly my point, my dear. Wait for us in the room.” Hope disappears, presumably to live out her life as a human again.
“That’s not fair,” Irreverent Student speaks out. “Why’d you let her go and not us?”
“Because you have not learned.”
Feeling as bold as Irreverent, I speak up. “By helping another life form we are not robbing them of a lesson. Not always, I guess. Sometimes we are teaching them how kindness can help. Kinda like paying it forward, right?”
Suddenly I’m back in the classroom with Hope. I wrap my human arms tightly around my human shoulders, relishing the feel of being me again.
Little by little, my classmates reappear around us until finally Teacher, again in human form, appears at his lectern.
“To recap, dear students,” Teacher unrolls a road map over the classroom white board and uses an old-fashioned pointer to indicate places along the old Route 66 that essentially dissects half of America. “It is indeed a long trek to walk from the Chicagos to Los Angeleses of your life, but wouldn’t it be great if a nice family were to offer you a lift in Amarillo? You might not learn the same lessons you would have on your own, but you might learn more. Just imagine.”
He taps the map, which clatters back into place with a loud rackety-rack. Teacher then turns to face us again.
“We could stand back and watch the guy next to us struggle to make it, believing that’s his lesson to learn, or we can offer a helping hand. As you’ve all discovered, in helping another we are not taking the lesson from him, just easing the burden and maybe making his lesson our own as well.”
Slowly, he steps off the stage toward us.
“Because, really, what we all need to realize is this – this life is a shared experience. One cannot succeed without all.”
When the class has been dismissed a little later, we walk a little slower and take more time to hug our friends, asking each other to share that moment we made it back to class. Every student had an interesting epiphany.
Until next class, dear friends, with much love I remain
The Dragonfly’s Student