A Butterfly in Flight
by Shirley Huang Batman
In the dawning light, the sun seemedslow to show its face; the morning raindrops were especially chilly. Myeyes fluttered open as I awoke to the alarm clock’s usual noise. The life of an office worker is like a three part machine—out the door each morning, work all day, return home to one’s nest each night. Day after day, the places and times are the same. The things around you look blurred and foggy.
When routine controls the flow of life, it becomes easy for people on the go to become complacent, paying little attention to the world around them. Sometimes, even looking out the window to take a breath of fresh air seems wasteful.
On this morning, like so many others, I was the first to be ready to go. I grabbed my briefcase and headed towards the door, turning my head back to hurry the kids along. I barked out the customary order to hurry up. These were the small details that had become our daily routine. The kids knew there was no dawdling allowed in the morning. My motto was always, “Better early than late.”
As I strode toward the car, I saw a colorful butterfly flit in front of my eyes and right into my car door. The impact knocked dew all over her beautiful golden and black dress, so that one of her wings was temporarily immobilized. However, the butterfly was strong and persistent. She usedall her strength, flapping her good wing, trying to fly away. Her small body looked so thin and frail, but she was not afraid or giving up one bit.
For me, in that moment, time was just a progression of minutes and seconds ticking away; for her, it was life or death. It made me stop and think. Isn’t life really equally fragile for all of us? For this butterfly, a single action on my part could change her fate. In that fleeting moment, I didn’t worry about my own needs. Without hesitation, I held my breath and used my fingers, gently and slowly, to lift her thin tired body. Even more gently and slowly, I placed her on a dry step. I watched her recover — first, gradually wiggling, then moving her body, then stretching her wings in a successful effort to take off. My heart was filled with immense joy. Although it was a trivial action for me, for her it was a rebirth. The distance between me and this creature seemed to have disappeared; we were related to each other by hope. In an instant, I realized the true meaning of the saying, “Do not shun good deeds because they are small.” This simple moment opened my eyes and gave me a new outlook on life.
Being busy seems an unchanging element of modern life. Haven’t I been among those who believed in this description of life —the mechanical work and rest schedule, the military-style routines? Have I really attempted to feel the sweetness of the early morning air? Have I stopped to appreciate the fragrance of the blooming flowers in my yard? Neighborly interactions have fallenby the wayside, happening more and more infrequently as life’s tempo has accelerated. Time for extended familyhas been relegated to the future tense, not the present. And a generational gap has deepened between me and my children.
I began to think about the frail, colorful butterfly. She must have been sincerely praying, hoping that people would care about nature at all times, not just in their leisure time. It made me think of how much we are like the butterfly, hoping that people around us care about us and will take the time to pay attention. We don’t want to just cross paths, exchanging brief greetings. We want to embrace and be embraced by those around us in our daily lives.
Yet here we are, focused on materialistic pursuits. We work hard to get ahead. We don’t want to fall behind our neighbor, whose lawn is always greener. We fear giving time to others might damage our success. When we give presents, we usually make a list of the people that are important to us. Those who are not relatives or friends rarely make the list. We treat outsiders as if problemsin their lives don’t affect us. We even act like their problems don’t matter to us. Why should we be the ones who help them? Often we reason that we do not have enough to give, and decide to delay helping until we are “more successful.” We rationalize that someone else will help, but notus. Sadly, in our busy modern world, “giving to others” becomes at best, an ideal. In reality, it is more often a burden we indefinitely postpone. Today God got my attention as my simple interaction with His beautiful immobilized creature made me wonder. What if the butterfly’s fight had been mine? How important is success when it is a matter of life and death? I realized for the sake of beingon time to work, I was rushing through every morning, acting like a general in a war. I bellow about the time, so the kids experience every morning harried and yelled at. I was doing everything in the name of efficiency. But by giving the kids a military-style morning, I was losing the opportunity to enjoy little pleasures and missing the precious moments for intimate interactions with my children.
So, I am truly thankful to the lovely butterfly. She let me appreciate the frailty of life and the values that can come from our humanity. These things are more fulfilling, more worthwhile than the approval of my boss, promotions in my organization or expensive gifts.
Just as I watched the butterfly lift off, the kids came running out at their normal, hurried pace—pulling me back from my musings. But things were not the same; I was different. I put on a gentle and proud smile to greet the two rushed and apologetic little faces, saying, “Chuen Chuen, Wei Wei, come over here. Come look! A beautiful butterfly!” With puzzled looks on their faces, they stared at each other for a long time.