One Sunday, I was just sitting in church, listening to the sermon and
thinking no great thoughts, when something landed on my ear. My conscious
mind said "A fly" and I started to brush it off, but some other
part of my mind said "No ... too big for a fly. Buzzed too loudly.
A wasp." So I didn't brush it off. I sat still in the midst of the
congregation, slowly breaking out in a cold sweat, waiting for that wasp
to decide whether it was going to sting me on the ear.
I waited for what seemed like a long time, but the wasp did not go away. It just kept walking around on the top of my ear, hanging on with all its many little feet. Finally I decided to swat it off on the floor and step on it. So I very carefully gauged where my ear ought to be--and swatted.
I missed. But I came close enough to fan the wasp, and it wound up sitting on the back of my right hand. It was a large, yellow-and-orange, very nervous, mud-dauber wasp, walking around in rapid little circles, popping its tail up and down as though searching for just the right spot to drive its stinger into my hand. I had absolutely no idea what to do next.
The wasp walked up the back of my hand, between my thumb and forefinger, and as I turned my hand over, began going around in circles on my palm. I watched it in a horrible sort of fascination, wondering how much it was going to hurt. So did my mother-in-law, who was sitting next to me.
I thought about trying to throw it on the floor, but chickened out. It would probably fly away before I could step on it, and if I really made it mad, it would either sting me or go sting someone else. Anyway, it didn't seem particularly angry, despite the jerky movements of its tail. It seemed more interested in all that moisture gathering in the palm of my hand.
Suddenly, an inspiration! I stood up, held my hand as steady as possible under the circumstances, and walked out of the church. As soon as I got outside, I flipped my hand and the wasp flew away. As simple as that.
When I went back inside and sat down, several people in the pew behind us asked me with their eyes if I had been stung. I smiled and shook my head. They looked relieved. One man wiped imaginary sweat off his brow and tossed it away.
After the service, several people congratulated me on how cooly I had dealt with the situation, which I knew I didn't exactly deserve, but my mother-in-law came up with the best line of all.
She said, "I guess Ben had the sermon for today: Remember to be thankful for the bad things that didn't happen."
I have thought about that, many times.