"Kill it, Dorothy, kill it! There's a spider! Kill it! Kill it!"
Matthew and I had been instant buddies since the first time he appeared on my doorstep. With peaches and cream face smudged with Kool-Aid and Fluff, he entered my apple-pie-order home in a flurry of no manners, period. After a few visits, he learned to ask before eating everything in sight and to resist poking his nose into drawers. He even mastered not opening the fridge unexpectedly.
On our walks together in the open fields behind my house, I gradually taught him to get over his terror at the slightest noise. Where he used to shout "What's that?" at even the gentle fluttering of a butterfly, I taught him to simply stop and listen when he heard an unusual sound or glimpsed some movement in the brush. We spotted all sorts of wonders that way. Sometimes a squirrel skittering up a tree, a bird hopping among the branches, or just a bevy of butterflies stirred by our footsteps. Those painful fears, I thought, had been finally conquered.
But today, the spider on my doorstop brought all the terror up again. Gently, I reminded him that Dorothy doesn't kill anything. As I went to get a paper towel, we talked about what a good creature a spider is, that like all of God's creatures this spider had a special purpose, had good things to do. No, she didn't belong in my entryway, but we only needed to help her find her way out safely, like a good neighbor would do.
Matthew and I talked about Charlotte, the main character of E. B. White's book, Charlotte's Web, and how even though she was only a spider, she was capable of good deeds. Just because we may think spiders are kind of ugly, I explained, like us they really have a special beauty and usefulness all their own. If we're not scared of them, we can see that they serve a good purpose that we shouldn't just rashly squash out.
He puzzled over that a bit, then headed over the hill for home. Suddenly he stopped, turned around, and shouted, "Dorothy, what if we called them all Charlotte?"
His question brought me up short. What did this pint-sized five-year-old just say? What if we thought of every ugly insect, maybe even every ugly creepy person that crossed our path, as a "Charlotte" -- as someone of real value, with real potential for good? Maybe we'd be able to see beyond the ugly, beyond the fearsome, to the good that is right there!
Wouldn't that lead to being helpful instead of harmful, compassionate instead of crushing? To top it all off, wouldn't we all go home at the end of a day as happy and wholesome as my little friend--and a lot less fearful?
"Yes, Matthew!" I hollered back, "Let's call them all Charlotte!"