On Biting Gnats and Making a Difference

After Christmas, while my parents were with us, we took them on a five-day trip to see some of Ecuador. We spent one night at Kumanii, the jungle lodge, and since the next day was Sunday, we went to church at one of the nearby villages. On the way home, we spent one night at Chachimbiro, a town famous for its termas, or hot springs. But at the beginning of the trip, we had 3 nights of family vacation time at a lovely hosteria near the mountain city of Ibarra.

The hosteria was called Paraiso Escondido (Hidden Paradise), and it was nestled at the bottom of a ravine with a river rushing through it. They had zip-lines, four-wheelers, and a big pool. All our meals were included (yay for not having to cook or clean up for 3 days!), and, as we were the only guests, we had the entire place to ourselves while we were there.

It sounds like perfection, and it would have been, had it not been for the biting gnats. Josh said he thought we must have found the gnats of the Ten Plagues fame, because they were truly awful. Their bites itched like crazy, and in my case (and my poor sons’ case), swelled to giant welts. I caught Stephen one morning using the back of a chair to scratch his back where he couldn’t quite reach — poor guy! We were using insect repellent and taking garlic pills every morning, and they just seemed to blithely ignore both of those facts and kept biting away.

As I lay there one night, unable to sleep, still itching despite having smeared myself with hydro-cortisone cream, I marveled that something so small could cause so much discomfort. It reminded me of the quote, attributed to the Dalai Lama, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Yeah. I’ve done that before, so I totally get what he’s trying to say. But here’s the thing: I don’t think I want to “make a difference” in the same way a mosquito does (or those horrible gnats), thank you very much!


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