I didn’t think my blog would include fashion advice. Then again, neither did I expect to encounter a scorpion on the inside seam of my pants leg after I picked up downed tree limbs.
I was working at a job site with other volunteers clearing debris from a kind lady’s yard following Hurricane Michael’s strike on Panama City. My scorpion surprise should not dissuade anyone from volunteering with relief and rebuild efforts in Panama City. The Florida bark scorpion is not poisonous. Its sting is like that of a wasp. In fact, when I felt a sharp pain behind my knee, I thought that a wasp had somehow crawled up the flared legs of my jeans and stung me. I realized it more likely was a fire ant and tried to squish it through the denim.
It felt much larger than an ant and didn’t squish. I felt another sharp sting on my thigh, then another before I calmly asked the elderly homeowner permission to use her bathroom. She guided me into the mobile home she’d been living in since the hurricane. I quickly entered the bathroom and pulled down my pants. A two and a half inch scorpion with a curled tail was traveling along the right inseam.
I quickly grabbed the bug with the fabric of my jeans, slid my foot out, dropped the critter on the floor and stepped on it with my workboot as it tried to scurry under the door. At first that just stunned it, as the shell was pretty hard. Once I was sure it was dead, I called out to the homeowner and warned her there was a dead scorpion on the floor. The stings already were swelling up into puffy welts so I washed them with cold water and soap while she rolled a can of hydrocortisone spray under the door. It was quite effective and stopped the pain. A few hours later when I returned back to the volunteer site and showered only a few small red marks remained.
My team members were extremely upset and concerned. “How are you so calm?” one asked as she nervously examined her own boots and pants. “I have a great guardian angel,” I responded.
I thought at the time that it just happened so quickly it never occurred to me to be upset or frightened. When I’d watched the volunteer orientation video that warned us to stomp on the ground and hit piles of debris before touching them so we’d scare away any snakes, it never mentioned scorpions. Fire ants were covered thoroughly, and I carefully watched my steps to avoid ant hills. Snakes were of more concern to me. I’d even let out a small cry of surprise a little earlier when a skink lizard with a snake-like looking head peered out of a crushed pipe that I was about to grab. That was embarrassing so I didn’t make a fuss about what I thought was a bug bite after that. “Do you feel okay? You’re not allergic to stings?” my team lead asked. “It’s fine. I am going to roll my socks up over my pants legs now though, because I don’t want to collect another scorpion.”
I joked about it, but there is a deeper meaning. Sometimes you just know you are in the right place doing what you are supposed to be doing, and you trust that God’s will is done in all things. If I hadn’t been stung by a scorpion, I might not have pulled my socks up over my pant cuffs for the rest of the time I worked and I might have gotten bitten or stung by something worse. Sometimes God accepts our morning offering of our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings by allowing us joy and sometimes by allowing suffering. Sometimes they come together. This was a very small suffering, but it came with great peace and an opportunity to realize how much I trusted Him. That was a beautiful fruit of the work of the day.
Later, I realized the tale of the scorpion had become useful to others too. Several other women began tucking their pant legs into their boots or pulling socks up over them. And, when I walked past the video orientation of new volunteers the next afternoon, I heard the trainer say “there she is, that’s the lady who had a scorpion crawl inside her pant leg! This is why you may want to roll your socks up over your pants if they are not snug at the bottom, or even tape them.” I waved, acknowledging my new status as an anecdote and pointed to my socks, which that day and every other for the rest of the week remained securely pulled over my pant legs.