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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write an INSPIRATIONAL or DEVOTIONAL piece (04/26/07)

TITLE: Lessons from the Snake Lady
By Debbie Roome


I’d like to tell you about Jane. You’ve probably met someone just like her. Someone who “marches to the beat of a different drummer” as they say.

Jane belonged to our church and always attended the evening service. It was easy to pick her out as different. She wore the same clothing through all four seasons – faded denims and a long-sleeved, blue jacket. She also wore her hair in a strange style which I found quite off-putting. To our shame, my husband and I talked behind her back and made fun of how she looked. Even worse, we weren’t the only ones to do that.

Jane was gregarious by nature and one evening, struck up the first of several conversations with me. She seldom looked me in the eye but soon communicated her passions. Ham-radio and wild life. She did her best to get my husband to join the “save the whales” website, but mostly she talked about her snakes.

She had a large collection of snakes, and to our horror, they lived in glass tanks, stacked around the walls of her bedroom. She bred rats and mice to feed them and was an endless source of information about their habits and behaviour.

As time passed, I started to appreciate Jane and learned to see past the exterior strangeness. I learned to listen and pay attention as she shared her knowledge and experiences. I also learned that she lived on her own, didn’t work, didn’t drive and was fetched by a friend for church on Sunday evenings.

We were sitting in church one Sunday night when the news came through. Jane was dead. In fact she’d been dead for four days but no one missed her until her friend went to pick her up for church. We found out later that one of her snakes, a deadly cotton mouth, had bitten her. Rather than call for help, she put the snake back in its tank and lay down on the couch to die.

Jane’s funeral was well attended and several people got up and spoke of this woman and the wonderful passion she’d had for God’s creation and wild life. As they talked, I thought of how her life had touched mine, how she’d taught me that God has made each of us unique and special, with something to offer. As the funeral continued, however, other thoughts began to crystallize. Every single person who spoke, talked of Jane’s passion for her snakes and animals in general. A passion that bordered on obsession and leaked from her every pore.

As I sat there, I wondered what people would say at my funeral. Would they say I lived life passionately? That I was obsessed with God. That I had a reason to live and communicated it to everyone I met. Sadly, the answer was no.

I came to appreciate Jane in life, but she taught me a whole lot more through her death. Lessons that have burned deep into my heart and hopefully made me a better person who lives each day with passion. I now live in a country where there are no snakes, but I will never forget the snake lady and the lessons she taught me.

Note: This story is true and took place in South Africa when I lived there a few years back. Her name has been changed out of respect for her family.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Eleanor Joyce05/03/07
I thought this was an excellent piece, and very convicting. How few people would say that Christ is my passion!
Delia Latham 05/04/07
Beautifully written, and such an important lesson! We are so quick to judge others from the outside in, rather than from the inside out. What wonderful lessons we might learn if we took the time to actually know some of the people we ostracize, hear the stories they have to tell, and absorb the wisdom they have to share.