Like most city-bred people, to me as a child, nature's plants and insects seemed much more deadly and horrid than they really are. When we'd go camping, the bouts with poison ivy, or even the fear of finding it lurking under every majestic tree, kept me from fully enjoying the experience. Gnats, mosquitos, and biting flies kept me running for the insect repellant every ten minutes, until hair, skin, and clothing had an uncomfortable feel and a rancid odor.
But my greatest fear was that I'd get a blood-sucking tick or leach on me and not find it until I was anemic, or near death. I never had one actually latch onto me, but, after every camping trip or farm outing, I'd wash all my clothes, bathe, and search everywhere for the pests. I'd panic if I found one walking on my skin. The hapless, nearly indestructible, creature would quickly be flushed down the stool or burned in an ashtray or fire.
My church youth fellowship group was camping at Whitewater State Park one lovely late summer weekend. Bethel, our sister church, had been in operation a year, and to help with the anniversary festivities, our youth choir was going to sing there, as they had at the opening.
An energetic counselor hustled a bunch of unenthusiastic, scruffy hikers in shorts and dirty sneakers into converging on Bethel ten minutes before the service. Quickly scrubbing face and hands, we self-consciously donned full-length choir robes, being instantly transformed thereby into acceptable churchgoers. We filed in an orderly procession up the aisle into the choir loft from the rear and were seated in plain view of the entire congregation.
I worried about the streaks of mud visible on the red carpet. I wriggled. I itched. Carefully so as not to attract attention, I scratched my head, feeling a little bump. The bump began to move! I eased up one finger and began to track the bump's movements. Something itchy was mincing across my head. As inconspicuously as possible, I sneaked up my whole finger to scratch. More tiny footsteps. Maybe a tiny mapmaker exploring my cranium? Wildly, trying not to change facial expression, I chased my illusive lump through the dirty strands of my hair, finally cornering it. Gingerly, I pulled the bump out of my hair. Tightly clutching my quarry, I drew my hand down, heart pounding. Slowly I opened my fingers while lowering my head by imperceptible increments.
A tick! While trying to suppress the very natural shriek that normally would have accompanied this revolting discovery, I created enough of a disturbance to attract the attention of those next to me. Trying to keep my face expressionless, I nudged the fellow camper beside me, a stalwart farm boy unafraid of commonplace things like ticks. He laughed, hiding his mouth with his hand, but refused to relieve me of the tick. The girl on the other side, who was too sissy to even go on the campout, nearly let out a scream when she saw it.
Uneasily, I clutched the tick tightly between my thumb and index finger, squeezing hard because of the nightmarish quality of the thought of having a tick crawling up my arm and disappearing in the volumnous folds of my robe.
A new thought hit. Suppose the tick bit into my finger and drained all the blood from my body? I squeezed even tighter, watching the finger turn white. From loss of blood? I nearly opened my fingers to see if I had a tiny hole in my hand. All through the anthem, all I could think about was the tick I was holding. I was getting a little hysterical, imagining crawling things on various other parts of my body and no spare hand to chase them down before they did their damage.
When the offering plate was passed, I plopped in both tick and tithe.
I enjoyed the sermon immensely after having given my burden to the Lord.
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