The first thought that comes to mind is likely a picture of annoyance … of anthills in your lawn, and of the painful bites they tend to inflict. Most people won’t draw a parallel to a motivated, determined, strong or intelligent insect.

I’m sitting in the sun. Sweat drips down my forehead to my chin, and I follow it as it drips on the dirt. I’m sitting cross-legged in the grass, my back against a steel beam, enjoying the sun in what has recently become a daily routine. I watch again as a solitary bead of sweat drips down my chin, and into the path of a little rodent.

I turn my attention to the aforementioned any, as he scurries to avoid the inevitable next drop. I watch as he locates his “pals,” and they all take off in separate directions, looking for something of unknown origin.

I watch this ant in particular, the one who masterfully dodged the bead of sweat that would have soaked him. He just continues to wander to and fro, as if he has nothing to do, but is determined to wander for the rest of his days.

Then, an unexpected blessing for my little ant friend: a wayward wasp lands just outside of his path, but Mr. Ant decides to check out his visitor. This wasp just so happens to be carrying a package – a beetle I’m sure he was planning for lunch. I move my head to get a better look, and the wasp startles, leaving behind his gourmet meal, already dead and ready for consumption.

When Mr. Ant wanders on to this delicacy, he inspects it for a moment, then runs off on a mission to find his buddies. Once he runs into one, they touch heads, as if transferring thoughts, and Mr. Ant heads back to his meal.

Well, pretty soon he’s joined by about 20 other ants, and they waste little time swarming over their “gift from above.”

In all honesty, by this time all these little ants are kind of looking the same, leaving me to recall the fleeting notion to put a collar and leash on my “Mr. Ant.”

Oh well. About this time, my – or what I choose to believe is my – Mr. Ant heads in a beeline toward their main nest. He pops his little ant body in and returns with some requisitioned helpers. Proudly and triumphantly leading the way, Mr. Ant heads back to the prize that he found,  and, with his helpers, he leads his mighty army in moving the beetle onward to his mount.

Now, bear in mind, this beetle is at least 25 times the size of my beloved Mr. Ant. But push, pull, drag – he leads the way home while his pals help hoist their heavy load. Other ants even help to clear the path of obstacles that could present a hindrance on the consumption of their evening meal.

By this time, more sweat glistens as it rolls downward right into Mr. Ant’s way. The few beads even splash some of his helpers, and – though stunned momentarily – they get right back to their task, quite undeterred.

By now they’re just about to their nest, a mere 24 inches by our standards – but miles to them, I’m sure. Now that Mr. Ant has gotten his prize home, he scurries to his hole and pops back out, as if in a state of contemplation.

Then Mr. Ant comes over and touches heads with another Mr. Ant, and they both head back toward their hole. Next, Mr. Ant #1 and Mr. Ant #2 begin digging, widening this tunnel, as if to widen a doorway when an extremely large cousin comes over for dinner – uninvited.  Well, soon other Mr. Ants are realizing the task at hand, and without hesitation they all help their fellow “ant brethren” in their tunnel expansion.

I just sit there, perspiring in the rays of the now unrelenting sun, in partial awe of these determined little insects.

Some time passes, and by now the tunnel looks as though you could drive a minivan through it – a little ant minivan. Or maybe a beetle.

And apparently that’s what my ant friend had in mind.

Now finished, he and his ant brigade start carrying their pilfered booty into the tunnel, and down into the depths of their cavernous ant nest.

Now what? My Mr. Ant and his buddies have left me, disappearing one by one into their little next. Oh well, such is life.

But what I have learned by taking the time out notice these small things? For starters, our lives and communities — and world, for that matter – could all take notes from Mr. Ant. For starters, he kept going unrelentingly, until he found whatever it was he was looking for. Then he humbled himself and asked for help, and he received it.

Mr. Ant was motivated and didn’t let his small stature stop him from accomplishing his task. Nor did he allow himself to give up before it was completed. He never sat back and let others finish the job, he was dedicated to the task at hand – not to mention that when more work needed to be done, everyone realized it and got to work without so much as a second thought (assuming ants think).

Ever notice that after a heavy rainfall, that anthills are almost always completely demolished … and yet the very next day ants are busy rebuilding? Those little guys are quite the hard workers. They never let adversity make them fail.

Heck, I’d like to be more like Mr. Ant. Imagine if we all acted like ants? I do believe communities, life, and even the world might just be a better place then.

Contact Dave Raith at


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