Image courtesy Amazon.com

My son came home from a birthday party and couldn’t wait to show us his loot. Among it was a small plastic box with three bean-looking things inside it. “They’re Mexican jumping beans!” he exclaimed.

We’d heard of them many times, but it never occurred to us to actually research what they were. My husband looked them up online. “They’re moth larvae,” he informed us. “They jump when they get too warm.”

Moth larvae. As in… bugs?

“Little living things?” I asked. “That we have to take care of?”

My husband assured me that they were low maintenance, that they would not hatch until spring, and that, when they did, we would safely usher them outside, well away from the cats. He also said to soak them in water once a month to keep them from becoming dehydrated.

I was fixated on the little living things that we have to take care of thing when my son put the beans under our hot lights over the kitchen sink and watched one wiggle around for his very life. “I’m going to name this one Jumpy,” he told me, “because he’s wiggling the most.”

“Move them away from the heat,” I told him. And then it occurred to me — they jump when the heat gets turned up. Something about that whole scenario sounded mighty familiar.

I’m looking at them jumping around on my dining room table right now, clueless under clear plastic that they’re under our watchful eye, oblivious that their little larvae lives are in the hands of perfect strangers. My initial annoyance that my son’s friend’s mother sent home little living things with him has given way to something else — something a tinge uncomfortable. It would be easy to ignore the fact that they’re living things. It would be easy to put them in a drawer and leave them there. It would be easy to pretend that there aren’t little lives struggling to thrive in those beans. But there are. They’ve unwittingly turned up the heat on me. My instinct is to jump away from it, but equal parts conviction and awareness keep me rooted to the spot.

Turn up the heat, Lord. It’s the only thing that keeps me accountable.

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