Can You Give a Worm’s Inch?

Not Smart Enough for College (51)

Several years ago, I was walking home from the bus stop, just letting my mind wander, thinking about nothing. After crossing a street, I happened to look down and saw a worm in the gutter that intrigued me. I was fascinated and stood there watching it for at least five minutes. I realize that no one else would ever stop and watch a worm, but I was hooked.


At first, I thought this was not the brightest worm in the neighborhood because from my viewpoint it couldn’t tell its head from its tail. After studying it for a moment, I tried to imagine the conversation it was having with itself and started wondering if it had two heads or perhaps two strong willed tails or maybe its problem was that it just didn’t know how to get along with itself.


Not knowing ‘Wormeeze’ I was at a disadvantage to discuss the dilemma with the worm, but I am quite certain the argument was about the best way to get home. For the sake of this story, I am going to call the head of the worm Herbert and its tail Humphrey. Herbert thought home was north and headed in that direction, while Humphrey thought it was south and started going that way.


If you are following the story, you recognize that Herbert and Humphrey faced a conundrum and unless they solved it, they would end up going nowhere. As I watched this worm, with Herbert trying to go north and Humphrey heading south, I realized that this was one stubborn worm. As they struggled to pull in separate directions this four-inch worm stretched into an eight-inch worm.  


Both Herbert and Humphrey were using all their energy without making progress in either direction. Then Mother Nature stepped in and stopped them from pulling themselves apart. They reached the limit of their stretch and sprang back to their original four-inch stature and stopped at the exact place where they started.


Remember Herbert and Humphrey were both stubborn, and Mother Nature tried hard to help them understand that neither was going anywhere unless they figured out how to work together. However, even with that hint, for the entire five minutes I devoted to worm watching, they repeated this behavior over and over again, neither giving a worm’s inch.


The next day when I walked the same route home, Herbert and Humphrey were gone. I don’t know if they made it home, dried up in the sun, or were eaten by a bird.


Herbert and Humphrey remind me of the many divisive debates in our communities and around the world today that are pulling us apart and keeping us stuck. While we may not be players on the world stage, there are people in our own families, neighborhoods, and communities who are pulling in different directions, and maybe we can pause, get curious, and shift to more productive conversations so we don’t end up going nowhere like Herbert and Humphrey.

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