If you think you’re too small to make a difference.

There was a blackout a few weeks ago in Berkeley. At first I thought it was the kids playing hide and seek near the power strip again. I grumbled my way to the plugs and turned the bright red little switch back and forth. And back and forth. Except that it never lit up red.

I got concerned when I noticed that the heat lamp for our baby tortoise Woody was off. And I wondered how long he could go without heat, being cold-blooded and all. Good thing he had buried himself under a mountain of wood chips before he went to sleep!

After putting the kids to bed I considered my next move. Too dark to read, nothing to plug in to entertain me. I savored the simplicity, the permission to crawl under the covers at 8pm and surrender to doing absolutely nothing.

The next afternoon Ben asked, “Do you know what caused the blackout?” His eyes were wide and excited.
“A squirrel!” he said. “He bit through the electric wires. 45,000 people didn’t have any power. Just a tiny little squirrel did that!”
“Did he survive?” I asked.
“No. He blew up,” Ben said with a nervous grin.

I considered the squirrel. What did his squirrel friends think?

“Larry! Always getting himself into trouble.”
“I told him not to chew the wires!”
“Did you hear what happened to Larry? He went out in a blaze of glory!”

It reminds me of a quote by the Dalai Lama: 

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

And I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this. Maybe because I can feel how we are all connected. How that squirrel’s life and our own was somehow in his tiny little hands.




  1. debbie in alaska
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Part of my job is to report outages to our customers on our social media page. Whenever I get a message from a customer that reads “I heard a loud pop and then power went out” I know another squirrel has gone to the great acorn tree in the sky. You’d think they’d learn from watching their brother, sister, cousin chew on wires but nope! In other news, if it’s not squirrels, it’s eagles. Eagles love to carry trash in their talons and they are notoriously careless about their trash treasure and tend to drop them onto our lines on a somewhat regular basis. Alaska living at it’s finest

  2. Posted June 30, 2015 at 5:39 pm | Permalink


  3. Posted June 30, 2015 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Very poignant, love this. Also confirms one of my pet peeves about the US: overground power lines! Hate them. Would happily pay an energy tax that would bury them all underground, like in Europe. I know it would be very expensive but these lines are not just vulnerable to storms and squirrels, they are also very ugly. Anyway. I know this post was not about that! And I love how you connected it all

  4. anonymous
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    As a Mormon wresting today with the homophobia in my church family, I am grateful to read your words. Here’s to being that annoying squirrel, all in the name of love and compassion and recognizing God in each other.

  5. Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    You got it anonymous! Exactly. Sending love.

  6. Kathleen
    Posted July 6, 2015 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know why~ but this made me cry… feeling a little vulnerable, like life is precious and it is passing me by too quickly…I can relate to that little squirrel- biting nervously at my life, instead of making the move I need to and heed the warnings of my friends…I don’t want to end up like Larry…with all that is left is just a few singed hairs…thank you for your lovely insightful and delightful post

  7. Posted July 11, 2015 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    Yes, we are all connected! Bumping into you at WDS this evening has lit a spark in my heart. I hope to see you over the weekend. I would love to tell you my story about the night I spent with a mosquito. <3 Kiné

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