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Harmless as a fruit fly?

Posted by Sara Spohr on

This piece was written for a sermon in July of 2016,
the week Philando Castile was killed in Falcon Heights,
it seems important for today too.


I saw one fruit fly in my kitchen last week. 

It was on a banana.

It seemed harmless.

I rolled my eyes and called my neighbor a fool. That happened last week too. Ironically, I was eating a banana at the time. The ineptitude of this person has long baffled me. So I did, I rolled my eyes when she walked away, but I honestly only called her a fool in my head, it was for no one else to hear but me. This too, seemed harmless.   

That one fruit fly and that one internal “you fool” they are the same.  They seem harmless, but they are decidedly not.

You know what my kitchen looks like now right? One week later and there is a swarm of fruit flies. Those pesky reproducers are everywhere. If I wave my hand across the fruit bowl they scatter in mass. They taint everything. They swim in my beer, they make a home on my bananas, they seem willing to die for my yogurt, I do not know how one found my toothpaste.

It’s the same in my interactions with other people. I see something disappointing and I call it out. My neighbor is a fool. This comment is as harmless as one fruit fly.  

But it is never just one comment. 

I know how this goes.

You probably do too. She will let me down again. “See, I said she was a fool,” I might now confide in another neighbor. Soon I will find that I am annoyed simply with the way she says good morning. Then it will be an almost imperceptible shift and I will realize that it is actually her entire belief structure that is foolish to me. Soon I will be lumping others together with her, I will mock a certain behavior, or a certain party, or a whole group of people. I may even find some friends who agree with me. We will talk.

This is where one harmless comment can become a swarm, an infestation on my heart, this is where anger and insults and resentment can become the stuff that sucks the life right out of me and my neighbors. 

This is not who I am. 

How did this happen?

I know how it happened in my kitchen. I let that banana sit just a little too long. That little bruise, I had planned to cut it out when I was ready to peel and eat it. That bruise, became a perfectly hospitable place for one harmless fruit fly to lay her 500 eggs and give life to a swarm, an infestation.  

I am bruised too. 

I know this. 

The story I’ve written in my mind is that my neighbor messed up that one thing, not because she doesn’t care about the one thing, but because she doesn’t care about me. In this fictional story my mind has contrived, I must call her a fool before she has the chance to call me one.  My more mature mind, my more rational being, knows better than this.  It absolutely knows not to take this personally.  It knows that If a person is bruised and vulnerable to one comment becoming a swarm of hatred, then that person needs to take care of those bruises or they will become a kind of prejudice, or racism, or abuse.

One hateful comment is like one harmless fruit fly. This is true. This is also not true. One fruit fly is harmless. Even a swarm of fruit flies is actually not more than a minor annoyance. One hateful comment? The swarm will follow. It will be deadly.

– Pastor Sara Spohr