Silly Spiders: 3 lessons in a roomful of cobwebs

September 19, 2013
By

spiderI‘m currently staying at a friend’s house in Kampala. The other evening, after dark, I crept into the darkness of the bathroom, reached under the sink, and pulled out a can of bug spray.  I then went to my bedroom (also dark) and sprayed the heck out of it, and then closed the door and went to the sitting room.  I don’t normally like to use spray, but during the previous night, mosquitoes had eaten me alive.  I knew from experience that if I sprayed early enough, the scent would dissipate to a tolerable level before bedtime.

About 20 minutes later, I returned to the bedroom to collect a book from the nightstand.  I didn’t turn on the light, again not wanting to attract bugs, knowing I could navigate the space in the dark.  As I waived my hand in front of me, I felt an enormous cobweb.  I was shocked, knowing it hadn’t been there 20 minutes before.  I then waived my hand in the other direction, and encountered several more webs.

I then screamed like a girl.  All I could think was, “What the heck kind of spider can do this much work in 20 minutes–and in a room filled with poison!”

I then found the light and quickly turned it on.  By then, my friends had also reached the room, summoned by my shrieking.  In the light, I was able to see what had happened, and my cries were replaced by laughter.

You see, from under the sink I had retrieved the wrong can.  Instead of bug spray, I had picked a can of silly string. (Who keeps silly string under the bathroom sink?!)  So what I thought were webs draping across the room were really yards of silly string, hanging from the ceiling fan and bed posts! We had a good laugh, and have revisited the scene daily since.

While you use this experience to plot your next practical joke, I’ll highlight some obvious, but important metaphors.

  1. It’s not wise to make a choice in the dark, especially when light is available.  A familiar refrain with my team–when presented with a decision to make–is the simple question: “How have we handled similar issues in the past?”  It seems to be human nature to focus on the present when, in fact, history often holds the answer, either in the form of a good outcome from a right decision, or the lesson learned from a wrong decision.  Turn on the light of the past the next time you’re faced with a choice.
  2. Don’t jump to panic-inducing conclusions.  When I assumed that I was in the middle of a giant spider web, I screamed, and awoke a houseful of people.  Had I employed more than one of my senses, I would have avoided the panic and the disturbance.
  3. Learn and laugh.  When possible, access laughter–that special intersection between humanity and spirituality–as you process life’s teachable moments.  Chances are that, what you thought was a spider, was actually just plain silly.

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11 Responses to Silly Spiders: 3 lessons in a roomful of cobwebs

  1. Leah harrington
    September 19, 2013 at 5:27 am

    LOL, you crack me up!

  2. Ina Rae
    September 19, 2013 at 8:41 am

    One very little spider can create a surprisingly large cobweb that shows you the presence of other small bugs it wants to capture for lunch or dinner. I am always amazed that the webs around here almost always seem to be right at the height of my face. I have gotten used to walking and just calmly wiping as I go. Experience is a great teacher if we turn on the light and see what is happening. ;-}

    • September 19, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Thanks for this. Cobwebs don’t normally freak me out, but these inexplicable ones certainly did. =)

  3. Sharon
    September 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Rich ! you always make us think about what is going on around us, what we can learn from it and not allow ourselves to drift from day to day !!!

    • September 19, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      I heard an 89 old chef from New Orleans talking on NPR yesterday, saying she loves “to live,” while she sees so many people who just exist. Your comment reminds me of the same. Asante.

  4. suzy from Africa
    September 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Ah Nat! What s story and told so brilliantly. But most of all the 3 lessons you shared from it. Powerful life principles. Thank you again for taking time to share. Thanks for the LOL too!!!

  5. Mara
    September 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Oh my goodness. That made my day. I can just see you doing that!
    My favorite parts: “Who keeps silly string under the bathroom sink!?” AND
    “What the heck kind of spider can do this much work in 20 minutes–and in a room filled with poison!”

    LOVE, MISS you!

  6. September 20, 2013 at 6:28 am

    re-chargeable Flashlight?, very useful, has light and you can beat up the “bugs” if necessary,:)

  7. Vicki
    September 20, 2013 at 6:39 am

    I have absolutely NO insightful comments. BUT … let me just say:

    Hahahaha!!!

    Hahahahahehehehohoohoohaha!!!!

    Thank you for making me laugh out loud today 😀

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Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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