I must have been 3 or 4, just a toddler, when my dad called me to the window of my bedroom. Although I was young, this memory is seared into my consciousness. In retrospect, the event was truly a watershed moment in what would become a lifetime of advocacy for animals. “C’mon, Krissy,” he said. “They’re waiting.” He motioned me over to the wide, thick-slate windowsill.
As I moved to the window, I noticed that Dad’s index finger looked funny; he was trying to keep it straight as he motioned me over. As I stood beside him, he VERY carefully took that funny finger and laid it against the windowsill just so. It was peanut butter! And he was smearing it in a perfect little mound right where the windowsill met the outer wall of my room. And then suddenly, there he was! A tiny ant poked his head out from a small crack in the windowsill and moved toward the peanut butter. I remember thinking that the peanut butter mound must look like a mountain to Mr. Ant. I wondered if he might get stuck if he walked onto it!
I learned all about ants that evening. I learned that the tiny animals—whom many people cruelly exterminate with chemicals—have fascinating lives. I learned that ants live in colonies that look a little like the apartment building I called home; that female ants take care of the baby ants; and that “worker” ants have superhuman strength! I guess I should rephrase that to “super ant strength” because Daddy said that if Mr. Ant was the size of a human, Mr. Ant’s strength would be much, MUCH greater than mine! I think this is one of the first moments in which I learned how to empathize with all living beings.
What I remember most of that fine autumn evening with my dad was the softness in his voice as he taught me all he knew about ants—as though he was passing on a sacred text to the next generation. And most importantly, I remember that he emphasized his final point with his hand cradling my chin, saying, “And we never, ever hurt the ants. We treat them—and all animals—with respect. But especially the tiniest of all.” In the midst of one of life’s most meaningful lessons, the little girl said, “Why, Daddy?”
And Dad looked right into my eyes and said, “Because all animals have the right to live their lives the way God intended. In peace.”
As the day of celebration of fathers everywhere approaches I wish to honor mine. And thank him. More than he will ever, ever know—thank him.