This experience happened to me while walking to class one day in my college years. I was running a little late, and as I scurried along the path to the building on campus I needed to get to I looked down and noticed a stream of ants in one of the breaks in the sidewalk.
Most of us have probably seen something similar, two columns of ants quickly traveling in opposite direction of each other; from above it looked like a busy freeway scene. There were hundreds of ants going back and forth in a line several feet long, and I soon noticed what had drawn their attention to this crack in the sidewalk and why they seemed to be behaving so efficient and workmanlike: a single M&M candy.
The scene stopped me, and I was mesmerized by watching these hundreds of ants surround and excavate this single piece of candy, no bigger than the size of bean. It was obvious that this M&M was as valued as finding gold would be to one of us, only even more important to them because it meant subsistence and life. This single M&M was nourishment to this whole community of some of God’s smallest creatures. And I thought to myself how the person who inadvertently dropped that M&M probably didn’t even realize the incredible deed that they had done. And that in the big scheme of things, a single M&M to a human means very little. In fact to this day when I eat M&Ms I usually grab several at a time, not even thinking that just one of those M&Ms could be so meaningful to anyone or anything else.
That’s when it hit me that what I was witnessing was a beautiful lesson in how the value of things can be so relative depending on who or what you are, where you may be in life, and what your circumstances are. And that we should be mindful of this when receiving gifts, when thinking about our generosity towards others, and in appreciating just how powerful a single act of kindness can ultimately be.
I’ve never forgotten those ants and the M&M, and often remind myself of the wonderful message I was given on that otherwise ordinary day.