There was significant excitement surrounding the arrival of the bees a few months ago. Then some consternation arose when JustBob reported the queen and a number of bees had left the hive. With the most recent inspection, there was a sigh of relief. It seems there is little need for worry as a new queen has been selected for our hive and it is only a matter of time before she matures and begins laying eggs.
It turns out that as a hive starts to thrive and begins to get overcrowded, it is common for an old honey bee queen to leave the hive with about half of the hive’s worker bees, while a new queen remains in the old hive with the rest of the workers. Our hive is so healthy JustBob recently had to add a second story so they workers had enough room to work.
It is fair to say when we all thought the health of the hive might be in jeopardy, we were probably more concerned that we would lose our pollinators for the gardens and fruit trees, and we would lose the honey the bees would have produced for us. I’m not sure anyone was thinking about the lessons our little bee colony could teach us about living in community.
Honey bees depend upon diversity of population for survival, as each kind of bee in each hive performs specific tasks. Queens are the only members of a colony able to lay fertilized eggs, and an egg-laying queen is important in establishing a strong honey bee colony. Drones, or male honey bees, have only one task: to fertilize new queens. Workers bees forage for pollen and nectar, tend to queens and drones, feed larvae, ventilate the hive, defend the nest and perform other tasks to preserve the survival of the colony. While queens are extremely powerful within their community, they cannot survive or establish new colonies without the help of drones and workers, who provide fertilization, food and wax to construct the hive.
Our communities function in the same way, and it is good to remember that everyone in the community has a role and a contribution to make to the health of the community. What kind of community would a school be if all it had was a principal, or worse yet, hundreds of principals? Without teachers, students, caretakers and other support staff, the community could not survive. What kind of a community would our towns and villages and cities be if all they had were administrators? Who would pick up the garbage, pay the taxes, fix the roads or keep the peace? No matter what level of community you identify, all communities need a diverse population and a variety of gifts to survive and thrive.
The lesson applies to our little community at St. Anthony’s, too, and that lesson was all the more evident in the past 18 months as we made our way through the pandemic. With the shutdown, our community shrank to four residents. We missed the staff and regular volunteers, not only for the variety of gifts they brought to our community or for roles they fulfilled but for their company as well. By the time staff returned, the residents were down to two and we had a new queen. Once a few volunteers came back, the house stared to look more like the thriving community it used to be. The return of even limited numbers of guests gave us purpose again.
No matter what community you are part of, it is important to recognize and appreciate the gifts and contributions of each member of the community. Each member has a role to play in the community, and it is important to acknowledge the reality that without any member or group of members, any community is a little less healthy, a little less able to thrive.
For grace and blessings of community, and for the diversity of gifts and talents each member of our community brings, we say Deo Gratias!