My pet wasp

During the fall in southern Ontario, wasps begin to make their presence felt. The black and yellow stinging insects are a royal pain for any picnic, which is such a shame when the weather is sunny and fair. They are like rude party guests who head straight for the food, paying no attention to who else might like some. All through September, our family  almost gave up on eating meals outside on the back deck, even though the weather was sunny and warm.

As annoyed as we have been with these flying creatures, however, we have come across one who has endeared himself to us. He doesn’t seem to bother us in the backyard. Instead he meets us out in front of the house.

This particular wasp (and we are sure that it is always the same one) is a social creature. As we leave the front door and head for the car, he always tries to follow us. He reminds us of a dog who always wants to go for a ride in the car. He will fly in an open van window, dash in the door just before it closes, and even go around to the back and make his way inside the vehicle while we are still loading tubas and violins. He even succeeded once in going for a ride, although he drew such attention to himself buzzing around the front windshield that I let him off only a block from our house. He found his way home again without too much trouble.

We have named our wasp Frank and we have come to look for him every time we drive somewhere. Did you see Frank? we ask each other. Yep–careful! is the usual reply. Because as much as we like Frank, we don’t want to get too close. We know he has a nasty temper. (He is camera shy, too, so I had to rely on someone else’s photo.)

Still, giving him a name has changed the way we feel about him. He is no longer just a scary insect. He has taken on a puppy-like quality, and we are often sympathetic to his passion for car-rides. Poor little thing, never getting what he wants, I think to myself. We shake our heads and wonder at his tenacity.

I know that this is true with not only wasps but also with people. When the cashier at the grocery store has a name, she becomes a real person instead of a whipping post for every grievance we might have with management. When the server at the restaurant has a name, he becomes someone who needs our tip to feed his kids or pay tuition. Yes, when the people who collect our garbage, change the oil in our car, or change the sheets at the hospital have not just blank faces but actual names, we treat them differently. We approach them with more respect. We are more polite, more kind, and more likely to look them in the eye.

I was glad to give Frank a name and it changed me for the better. I am less fearful of him being in my general vicinity and am not particularly inclined to squish him. I am content to put up with the mild inconvenience he presents and instead appreciate that he is a living creature with needs and wants, too.

It is a good bet that there are people in your life who are nameless. We see them every day as we go about our business and give them very little thought. I wonder what would happen if we took the time to look at their name tags, or were even bold enough to ask their name? Surely it would make our world just a little more human and a nicer place to live.

I think Frank would approve.

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