BY TIM MIDDLETON
There is an old saying along the lines that “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never been in a dark room with a mosquito.” We are all only too familiar with such an experience! We are lying there on our bed, quietly going about the art of going to sleep in the beautiful silence when suddenly we hear that soft drone in the background. Our first reaction is to hope that it will go away but when we discover that the little creature does not listen or pay attention to our quiet hope, our second reaction is somewhat bizarre — we slap ourselves where we think the noise last emanated. By now we are fully awake and intent on full-scale war, all the more so when we start to scratch, having realised that our defences have already been breached.
The fact is we do not see the mosquito and indeed for some time before we hear it we do not even know it is there. We rely on hearing it because we do not feel it — until it is too late, of course, and we feel its effects rather than its impact. We rarely feel it land on us, nor do we feel it extract our blood. It is a silent, soft, secretive, stubborn, stealthy, sickly and subtle blood-sucker.
The mosquito is small but it has a massive impact; in fact, some would say it is the world’s deadliest creature, killing more people each year than any other much-larger animal, be it lion, elephant or snake. The tiny, light-weight mosquito sends individuals into frenzies; it sends countries into overdrive. In short, no-one can say that the mosquito is not significant; it affects us all.
The first thing we can learn from the mosquito is that small things do count; little things matter. Small things can have a big impact and effect. A young child’s actions may have a huge say on many others. The quiet efforts of a lonely teacher in the midst of a large class could well change the lives of children for ever. What a wonderful responsibility and opportunity teachers have, parents have, to raise up a child. It does not take much to have that impact; we do not have to make a lot of noise but go about our business quietly, relentlessly and even gently. All of us can have an impact.
We do well to note, however, that the mosquito has a negative impact on us; there is nothing to say it has a positive impact on anything or anyone. The mosquito sucks blood out of us and injects poison into us. It carries unwanted, unhealthy potential danger. It irritates us, causing us to itch and scratch. Through what it carries and transmits we can be laid low for days, weakened and confused.
We must acknowledge, therefore, that it can equally be very small things which may affect us negatively. They may irritate us, they may even lay us low for a while (put us out of action) but ultimately they may also potentially kill us. We must guard against such potential words and actions to ensure that we do not bring down those around us; it is not just for teachers to do that but all of us. Even the smallest, frailest, weakest person can lay low giants with the smallest and quickest of words or actions.
That is a vital lesson when it comes to life. It does not take much for our very life to be sucked out of us. The smallest events can weaken us, send us into a frenzy, cause us to flail around with our arms and lash out in every direction in a vague hope of dealing with the situation. The smallest word or the shortest sentence can infuse our minds with such negative and destructive thoughts that we become feverish in our attempts to face up to life.
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All too often we take precautions to repel the mosquito when it is too late, after we become itchy and realise we have been bitten. Sadly, the same is true of us in society; we realise too late the effect of those negative words, deeds or thoughts. Much of what is learned is done without us noticing it, just as we do not notice the mosquito until it is too late.
Many say there is nothing worse than being in a dark room and hearing a mosquito; there is something worse though, as others have noted. It is hearing a mosquito in a dark room and then not hearing it — that is when we know it must be doing its dirty deed! There are easier and healthier ways to give blood — and in so doing, save people’s lives. Small things can have a great impact. The question is whether that impact will be positive or negative. Will we give blood today?Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.