When I was a kid, I lived in a colorful neighborhood. Take, for instance, our down-the-street neighbors. While not exactly bona fide hippies, they certainly bordered on “crunchy.” They refused to cut their lawn, to the eternal perturbation of the rest of the street, and to call their house an eyesore would be a denigration to ocular wounds.

Still, their daughter was in my class at school, so on one memorable occasion, I was forced to enter their domicile. It was then I learned that they kept spiders as pets. Not tarantulas, mind you, just ordinary, run-of-the-mill house spiders. In fact, they would not kill any creature that entered their home, and I suspect there were more than a few present.

Which brings me to my present quandary. There are two spiders living on my bathroom windowsill. Now, I’m not one of those people who falls to pieces at the sight of an arachnid. But I wouldn’t say I endorse their presence wholeheartedly, either. Yet I let these spiders live, partly because I don’t know what else to do.

The drought hereabouts has somehow caused a rampant uptick in the number of mosquitoes. I know, it sounds like backwards thinking, but when your rivers have turned to stagnant pools, mosquitoes come and mosquitoes stay. And I’m allergic to the little buggers. So the spiders on the windowsill and I have forged an uneasy truce: They can stay as long as they catch the even less-desirable trespassers, particularly mosquitoes. We forged a partnership — okay girls, all ten arms in…and break!

The whole situation’s got me thinking. Who am I to decide what lives and what dies — and yet I do it every day. Even as I live in uneasy alliance with the spiders, I have no trouble at all crushing other errant invaders, including other spiders. Two on the windowsill, fine. But one next to my hairspray? It’s squishing time!

I am aware that this may not be what is considered living in right relationship with all other living beings. God gave humans mastery over all creatures great and small, but in doing so, He expects us to follow His lead — to be protectors, to be caretakers…to serve, not command. But where does one draw the line? Must we live in buggy squalor, like my former neighbors, or do we have the right to say, “No. This is my home”? And how far does that sense of home extend — to our property line, our country, our universe? Is it okay to eradicate cockroaches but not okay to eradicate Indian rhinos? Who decides?

And so the cohabitation continues. One of these days, I will terminate the spiders’ tenancy. But I will feel bad about it. After all, what have I contributed to the world? At least the spiders kept their corner of the world in balance. Perhaps I should focus on doing the same.

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