These are the first ten in a series of original modern fables for adults by the Humanity Project. They are short, fun, fictional tales that we hope will help demonstrate key points of the Humanity Project message. Each story also includes a simple moral at the end, as fables have done for centuries. Please enjoy them!
The Tale of the Sea Wave | The Tale of Almost Alvin | The Tale of the Green Grass | The Tale of the Teller Twins | The Tale of Me-First Mary | The Tale of the Yellowbright Flower | The Tale of the Small Hole | The Tale of No-Time Nora | The Tale of Generous Jen | The Tale of Techie Tom
The Tale of the Yellowbright Flower, with Original Music and Read by the Author: This is an audio version of one of the ten fables. Just click to listen. This fable and the other nine all are posted below in written form as well.
The sea wave knew what happened to sea waves in the end.
This was the fate of all waves that ever tumbled across the ocean’s vast, grand surface. Including him.
When he had been just a little wavelet far out at sea, he had heard the stories, the rumors, the old wave’s tales. There was something called the shore. Or so everyone said. The shore was the destroyer of waves, of large waves and small, of frothy waves and gentle waves alike. No wave survived an encounter with this thing called the shore.
One fact was certain. Once any wave rolled off past the horizon, it was never seen again. Yes, waves disappeared all right.
The sea wave also recognized, of course, that he was a wave of no special significance. Or so everyone said. No one and nothing was likely to much care when he washed up against some face of rock or shallow of sand ashore – simply one of many, one of uncounted millions to appear on the broad ocean for a moment before vanishing forever.
But he cared, yes, the insignificant sea wave cared. How was it possible any wave simply could cease to exist? What would the end be like? How long would it take? Was it going to hurt? Most of all, what would become of him … you know, afterwards.
These were big questions to ponder, especially for a wave so insignificant as him.
For the first time in his undulating and unimportant life, the sea wave wanted something more. Wanted to understand why he had come and where he would go.
The sea wave’s troubled pondering rolled onward with him hour upon hour as he rolled and rolled onward far past the sea’s horizon. Until his pondering rolled him to a thought he had never pondered before: The sea wave realized there was something all around him and all under him and all within him too. It was everywhere.
It was water.
And so was he.
He was not just a single small wave undulating upon the surface of the sea. He was the sea and the sea was the water and the water was always.
And so was he.
Waves had come and had gone. He had come and would go. Other waves large and small, frothy and gentle alike would do the same, each swirling into watery existence from the vast, grand surface of the ocean. Each a singular wave yet each wave one part of the vast and the grand that was everywhere, everywhere.
And as he pondered all of this, the small sea wave rolled on now, rolled on joyfully somehow across the vast, grand surface of the ocean. The sea wave simply rolled on.
Moral: When we recognize ourselves as one part of a larger whole, our existence gains significance.
With appreciation to Thich Nhat Hanh: “Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realizes it is water.”
Alvin held high high expectations. Expectations for every he or she that he knew, including the he that was he, Alvin.
High expectations were not an easy thing to hold, not a joyful thing to hold. No. Because it was sad yet truthful to say that not one single he or she ever quite lived up to Alvin’s high expectations, including the he that was he, Alvin. Especially that he, yes that he most of all.
Each day Alvin tried it all all over again. Oh sure, he went out into the world of shes and hes all over again with hopes held high high, expecting to find the perfect someone else to like, somewhere-somehow. Surely there was one she somewhere who happily would listen and listen whenever he spoke every anything at all, a she who would converse only in smart (and brief) remarks, a she who would prove most charmful and most loveful and who craved to cook for Alvin, yes, to cook very very well.
And surely there was a he somehow who would just want to pal around, yes, around whenever and wherever Alvin wanted a pal, a he who would prove a loyal buddy and a best most generous friend.
But no and no. No such she or he ever quite turned up as the days and years shimmered past Alvin.
Almost, yes, almost sometimes – every now and then. Until the new disappointment set in and another almost friend was lost.
There was the she who worked in the same office building as Alvin, smart and pretty and fun, a she who even craved to cook for Alvin and cooked very very well. They had smart and pretty fun together for some weeks until Alvin suddenly saw some something in she that he had not quite seen until that moment. No, no, this was a she who just talked way too much.
And there was the he who lived in the same condo building as Alvin, a he who wanted a pal and loyal buddy as much as Alvin did. He was a he who always paid more than his share and who always was ready to pal and buddy around at the drop of an instant. They spent many an evening as pals and buddies around and around for some months. Until Alvin suddenly realized something in he that Alvin had not quite realized until that particular instant. No, no, this was a he who was not very smart.
Almost, yes, so close each time. But each time, just in time, Alvin was smart enough to figure these people out before it was too late.
And so, after each almost-time, Alvin had time enough at home alone to further explore his own set of shortcomings, his inadequacies and inconsistencies, his traits that were too much and his abilities that were too little. Oh, yes, Alvin was no less relentless in finding his own lag and lack, the lackluster among a stream of his seeming strengths. No, no, Alvin did not fool Alvin one bit.
For whenever he looked, really looked, for his own failings among those high high expectations, he always found more than one something to see. There was his receding hairline, for one something, and his pudge of belly fat. There was that nasal voice and that annoying girlish gesture with his right hand.
Alvin also saw that Alvin talked way way too much. And Alvin realized that deep down Alvin wasn’t really very smart at all. There just wasn’t much about Alvin that Alvin much liked.
Sad, sad. Sad.
Yet each day Alvin tried it all all over again. Oh sure, he went out into the world of shes and hes all over again with hopes held high high, expecting to find the perfect someone else to like at last, somewhere and somehow.
And why not? Because a perfect someone else who liked Alvin in return, perhaps, might help Alvin to like Alvin a little bit too.
Moral: If we want to like ourselves, we must appreciate others despite their imperfections.
It was a green lawn, a very green lawn, a green green lawn. And big. Yes, it was the first green lawn to grow green on the very first day of spring. A broad expanse of grass that covered a broad expanse of rich topsoil in an awakening springtime world.
Very big. Very green.
On this very first day of spring, every blade of grass in this green lawn felt a justifiable sense of pride. Each blade knew it was one part of something very big and very green. Each blade looked around just to admire the sight of it all. And each blade would have smiled at that sight if blades of grass had lips. Because a very green lawn on the very first day of spring is a sight worth seeing, as everyone who has seen such a sight surely agrees.
Yes, every single blade of green grass was smiling somewhere within. Because every single blade of green grass could feel itself standing up tall and high and proud on this day, each blade equally important, each blade contributing its own special green something to the whole vast greenness of the big green lawn.
This special green pride continued for a whole day, almost.
Right up until one green blade of grass decided it was taller than the others. The tall blade could see the tops of those other puny green blades far below, perhaps a full inch lower to the ground. Right away, the tall blade understood exactly what this meant: One blade of grass was more special than the others. Oh yes, the tall blade knew that it was the most special single blade of grass on that vast big whole green lawn.
The tall blade of grass began to feel entitled. Entitled to more minerals from the topsoil around it, entitled to more rain from the sky when the rain began to fall later during that very first lovely spring day. It was obvious, very obvious, that the tall blade was entitled.
Obvious to all, perhaps, but the other blades of grass growing all around the tall blade.
Now, one by one, each blade began to feel entitled too. Entitled to more than the other blades growing all around it. Entitled to more of the minerals in the rich topsoil. Entitled to more of the rain that fell from the sky.
Sure, because this blade decided it was a prettier green than any of the others. And that blade decided it was broader and stronger than the other blades of grass. And then still another grassy blade decided its roots were growing deepest into the topsoil. And on it went, oh sure, on and on and on it all went. One blade of green grass after another blade after still another blade, each one deciding it had some special quality more special than any of the others.
This deciding spread throughout the big green lawn during the very first day of spring and the second and third and fourth days of spring that followed. Yes, oh sure, this kind of deciding often spreads very fast.
Each blade wondered over and over to itself, “Why can’t the others see how special I am?”
Right up until the tall blade of grass stopped deciding and wondering such things for a moment. And took another good look around.
The entire lawn was brown now. Light brown expanses that looked like straw mixed among dirty dark brown blotches, all dry despite all the springtime rain. Oh sure, yes, that vast big whole lawn somehow had nearly dried itself dead. Somehow.
The tall blade of grass stopped feeling any sense of pride. So did the pretty green blade and the strong, broad blade and the deep-rooted blade. (Though, in truth, those blades no longer were so tall or pretty or broad or deep-rooted anymore.) Every blade of grass on that big big brown brown lawn soon felt very different than before.
And each blade began to wonder to itself, “What is wrong?”
This was just before the tall blade of grass dipped his tall blade to offer the pretty green blade below a big sip of rain water, yes, rain water that had collected on the tall blade. And this inspired the pretty green blade to tilt just enough to share that water with the strong, broad blade. Which, in turn, shared that water with the deep-rooted blade.
Now many of the other blades of grass, sure, lots of other blades began to share their rain water with one another too. Seeing this, still other blades of grass on the big lawn pulled in their roots just enough – enough, that is, to allow the blades nearby to draw more of the minerals from the rich black topsoil.
And on it went, oh sure, on and on and on it all went. One blade of grass after another blade after still another blade, each one deciding it would share something with the other blades of grass nearby.
This deciding spread from one blade to another to another and on and on to still others, yes, spreading throughout the big lawn during the fifth and sixth and seventh days of spring that followed. Funny but, yes, this kind of deciding sometimes can spread even faster than the other kinds.
And on the seventh day, the tall blade of grass took another good look around again. Looking all around at the vast lawn that spread all all around everywhere, the tall blade felt a greater sense of pride than ever before in its tall grassy life.
The entire lawn was green again. Full and thick, very big and very green.
Oh yes, the tall blade understood now that each blade on that big vast green lawn was one part of something very big and something very green. Each blade somehow different in some way or some other way. But each blade in some way contributing its own important green something.
The tall blade would have smiled at that thought if blades of grass had lips.
MORAL: We each grow best when we recognize that we’re part of something larger than ourselves.
The Tale of the Teller Twins
Everyone in town called them “the twins.” Tripp and Terry Teller, identical in all ways – except one. As you will see. The Teller twins were tree trimmers and had a nice little business going too. Chopping at trunks, grinding down roots, thinning out limbs. The twins had grown up around this town and this town had grown up around the twins. Yes, this town was no small place anymore and the Teller boys had no small business either.
Tripp Teller seemed the driving force. It was Tripp with the charm smile and it was Tripp with the glad pat on the shoulder for everyone. Everyone, at least, who might need their trees trimmed. To Tripp Teller, tree trimming served one purpose only: to give him “the good stuff,” as he always called it. The good stuff meant the good car and the good house of course. Of course. But most of all the good stuff meant feeling like someone important around town, owner of a good business that was pulling in good money. Of course. Sometimes Tripp almost forgot that his twin brother really was his twin brother – almost forgot that Terry really was his brother at all. The tree trimming business to Tripp was all about “me.” Nothing else. Though he had to admit that Terry did help get all those trees trimmed much faster. Which of course allowed Tripp to have more of the good stuff sooner. Of course.
As for Terry, yes, he looked just like Tripp and talked just like Tripp and usually even walked just like Tripp. No one could tell them apart when the twins ambled down Maple Street. But Terry knew the difference between them even if nobody else knew the difference, even if his own brother didn’t know the difference either. To Terry Teller, the tree trimming business really wasn’t all about “me.” Trimming trees somehow was about “us.” Yes, trimming trees to Terry was about doing something to help people in that not-small hometown of theirs. And trimming trees especially was about working side by side with his twin brother Tripp, sharing each day with the person he loved most of all in all their town and in all their world.
This was the one big difference between Terry Teller and his twin brother Tripp Teller. But no one in all their town, or in all their world either, knew about this difference of course. No one except for Terry Teller. To everyone else, the twins were identical in all ways.
Then something happened. There was one big tree in one big wind one night. And the big wind pushed the big tree on to another big tree, which was pushed on to another big tree, and that tree in turn was pushed on another and on and on it all went, trees tumbling like dominos, falling trunk after trunk after trunk after trunk with a crash. A very big crash.
The problem was that all these tree trunks crashed mainly on one house. Yes, all these trees had grown up mainly around one house and now somehow they all had crashed down mainly on that one house too. The trees had crashed down on the house of Tripp Teller.
As luck or unluck would have it, both Tripp and Terry Teller were sitting inside Tripp’s home at the time of this crash. They were in the basement going over work schedules for the next day’s tree trimming. But now the Teller twins were trapped.
Trunk after trunk after trunk lay on top of the shattered house, which had collapsed on top of the basement.
To top off these problems, the twins had no water or food in the basement. They had no cellphone in their pockets either. And no one could hear them yell for help – Tripp’s good house was far too far away from every other house in town, sitting on top of a good tall hill. And all their tree trimming tools were locked inside their tree trimming shop several miles from the home of Tripp Teller.
Tripp and Terry had very little at hand to help them. Except for their four hands, of course, and a small knife and a single dull axe tucked in one basement corner. Nothing else.
The first thought that flitted through Tripp Teller’s head after the big crash was about “me.” Of course. As in, “I’m glad I’m not dead! How am I going to get me out of here?” The first thought that lingered in Terry Teller’s head after the big crash was about “us.” As in, “I’m so thankful we’re not dead! We’ve got to find some way to get us both out of here!”
But getting out was easier said than done, as they say.
The tree trimming twins hatched a plan of escape, with Terry using the knife to carve deep notches in the fallen tree trunks that had trapped them below the ground and Tripp using the axe to chop at the notched tree trunks. With each carve of the small knife, Terry thought to himself, “We’re going to get us both outta here!” With each chop of the dull axe, Tripp thought to himself, “I’m getting me outta here!”
They carved and chopped for many hours but eventually night spilled into the next day and that next day soon spilled into another night and on and on it all went. Until a terribly tired Tripp at last thought to himself, “No more. I don’t care anymore if I get out of here! I give up!”
But you’ll remember that there was one big difference between Terry Teller and his twin brother Tripp Teller. As Tripp Teller soon discovered at last.
Terry Teller was tired too, of course, just as tired as Tripp. Or maybe more, maybe. But the thought now foremost in Terry’s mind was this: “Tripp needs to rest a while but I’m ok. I still can keep working. I’m going to find some way to chop on this tree trunk hard enough to get us both out of here!”
When Terry swung the axe again, he felt an odd feeling. He felt as if the chopping suddenly had become easier somehow. He wasn’t sure why. Terry felt as if he felt now for sure that he could chop through that tree trunk. Somehow. It almost felt to Terry as if his hands and arms really didn’t feel so tired anymore. Maybe almost as if his hands and arms didn’t feel tired at all somehow, maybe.
But how could that be?
Terry Teller didn’t stop to wonder. As Tripp drifted asleep, Terry continued chopping with that dull axe, chipping away bit by bit by bit through the thick tree trunk. He may as well have been trying to dig through a concrete wall with a small spoon. But Terry kept chopping and chipping at that trunk until even a dull axe proved strong enough at last – strong enough, at least, when it was swung by two untired hands and arms.
And if such strange strength seems to you like something that happens only in fables, think again. Look again. It is all around you every day, somewhere in your town sometimes. Maybe it is inside you too, sometimes, when you’re not looking. Whatever. But it happens. It does happen. Really. Just ask Terry Teller.
So, yes, Terry at last chopped through one thick tree trunk with that dull axe, then used that broken trunk as a lever to shift aside another tree trunk, then awakened his brother so they could squeeze through the narrow opening together to safety. The twins were free. Hungry, thirsty, tired and shaken but free again.
And when Tripp Teller, still dazed, stood in the free air outside to look at his shattered home and then over at his smiling twin brother, he could only think to ask a simple question: “How did you do that, Terry? How could you do that alone?”
And when Terry Teller looked over at his brother at that moment, he could only think of one simple answer: “I didn’t do it alone, Tripp. I couldn’t have done it alone, you’re right. We did it, brother – together.”
MORAL: One man working only for himself struggles alone. But one man working for himself and others discovers the strength of many.
The Tale of Me-First Mary
Mary was an odd name for this particular Mary. For this particular Mary often pursed her unmerry lips in disgust at some other someone. Someone, anyone who got in her way during any particular day. Mary was as unmerry as any someone could be.
Knowing that she lived in a me-first world, Mary often used her lips to speak aloud the two words always mostly on her mind. “Me.” And “my.” (Sometimes Mary often spoke the words “I” and “mine” too.) These were the syllables that tumbled off her tongue from each day’s first sunflicker to every night’s final moongleam.
Driving to work, she fumed that an accident ahead on the highway put “me” behind schedule. Vacationing in the mountains, she snorted that her boyfriend’s sprained ankle ruined “my” holiday. Watching television, she sniffed that terrible news about terrible floods somewhere interrupted “my” favorite program. The drivers in the accident and the boyfriend in the mountains and the people living near terrible floods were not tickled by these events either, of course, though this thought never meandered completely into Mary’s mind.
Mary wasn’t mean, mind you. No, Mary didn’t want to hurt anyone, of course, of course not. No, Mary had just learned, oh yes, Mary had learned the big lesson very very well: If you’re helping someone else, you’re not helping yourself. It was a hard but simple truth, as every someone understood in this me-first world.
The trouble with being just one me in a me-first world is all those other me-firsters living in your world, of course. Yes, all those other me-first people just keep getting in your way. Which was why Mary so often pursed her unmerry lips in disgust at some other someone. Which was why Mary was as unmerry as any someone could be.
And so it went for Me-First Mary, day after day after day becoming less merry by the moment. Until one day Mary had to wonder, just for one moment beneath her pursed unmerry lips: “Maybe me-first isn’t the best way to be in this world. Maybe, maybe helping only yourself isn’t really helping yourself at all.” This is what Mary wondered one day.
Was it possible that doing something helpful for some other someone really might help Mary too somehow? Was it possible Mary might feel a little merrier if she thought a little less about herself alone? Was it really possible that any of this was really possible in this me-first world?
Mary pursed her lips again, tighter than usual.
“No, that’s really not possible,” Mary said tartly to herself aloud. “My life’s hard enough just worrying about ‘me’ all the time! ‘Me,’ ‘me,’ ‘me’ every minute and I still can’t get what I want. Imagine how bad my life would be if I started worrying about any of ‘them’ too!”
MORAL: Living for ourselves alone is self-defeating.
Flowers feel feelings. Strong emotions vibrating out through their stamens and pistils. It’s a secret well known by flower lovers who coax blooms open with whispered encouragements. So it should be no surprise that the Yellowbright Flower growing in a large red field trembled with feelings now. Yes, he trembled each day from the strong feelings he felt. He felt different, after all, which is always a strong and unsettling thing to feel. He was the only Yellowbright Flower flowering in a field of red something-or-other plants. Whatever they were. He knew walkers walking by stopped walking and wondered at the sight of the Yellowbright Flower, stopped and stared before walking on. He knew he was some special thing, the only thing of his kind. But so what? Because the only thing of anything is always a very lonely thing to be, no matter what thing it is.
Until one midnight moonful lightbright night, as the Yellowbright Flower bobbed on a summer wind, the field spoke to him. Yes, a voice came from the field itself, from one red something-or-other plant itself in the field itself. This plant, whatever it was, now spoke to the Yellowbright Flower by saying this: “You’re not really alone, you know.” No one and nothing had ever spoken to the Yellowbright Flower before. To say the Yellowbright Flower was startled would be an understatement. Remember, flowers feel strong feelings.
“You’ve missed it all along,” the red plant went on to the Yellowbright Flower. “You’re a rose. So am I. So are we all, all of us in this big field. If you’re yellow, with a different bloom, your color only adds to the beauty of this field. But it’s all of us, together, that the walkers stop walking to see. Not just you. Together, we’re a garden. Alone, you’re only one pretty but very small blossom.” Funny how this changed things for the Yellowbright Flower, who now recognized he was really a Yellowbright Rose. Funny how those few words changed everything. Because no thing is really the only thing of anything, no matter how special that one thing is. Somehow it helps to feel this when you’re a flower feeling strong feelings. Yes, somehow a flower garden just feels like a much less lonely place to flower, don’t you think?
MORAL: We stop feeling isolated when we understand we’re part of something larger than ourselves. ____________________________________________________________________________
Life is tough if you’re nothing but a small hole. For big holes, sure, things aren’t quite so bad, sure, sure. At least bigger is better, as everyone knows. But for each small hole poked into the fabric of this world somewhere, there is almost nothing to do but to live in hollow boredom.
The worst of it was this, though: The Small Hole wasn’t even sure, totally sure, he was even a hole even. He was round. Sort of. He was empty inside. Kind of. But he sat among rows of black lines on a field of white. His best guess was that he came into being as a tiny hole in a sheet of paper. But he wasn’t sure, not totally sure, not sure at all.
The Small Hole had lived all his small vacant life with this terrible uncertainty. Big holes at least had some purpose anyway. They could let big things pass through them anyway, like a tunnel that is a pass-through for cars anyway. At least it was something to do with your day. Even some small holes could be useful sometimes, it seemed, as when a finger scratches an itchy leg through the pocket hole of old jeans. Even small holes had a purpose even, sometimes. Not a grand purpose, mind you. But amid the nothingness of small hole life, even small purposes were welcome.
So sat the Small Hole, day after day. Round and empty, sort of, kind of. Unable even to think of himself as a big nothing even, because he was only a small nothing after all. The Small Hole had no purpose and nothing to give at all.
Or so it seemed.
Until the day he overheard one voice uttering some very interesting words. (Yes, holes can understand whatever people say. Most recognize several languages as well as signing for the deaf.) The Small Hole heard one man’s voice talking, followed by very beautiful sounds. The same voice again, then more sounds of a beauty the Small Hole had never heard before. And then once more, the same man’s voice again, once more yes the same man’s voice, but now very loud, very bellowy now. This is when the man’s words got very interesting, if also very loud.
“You’re late!” the man’s voice bellowed. “You have the most important moment in this whole work – and you’re late! Play on the downbeat, as it is written!”
The Small Hole understood the words, of course, but he could not make sense of their true meaning. What was the bellowing man talking about? Soon enough, the Small Hole would learn.
Because now the voice of the bellowing man continued: “I can’t believe my ears! One note to play and you get it wrong! That cymbal crash is the climax of this great symphony by this great composer and you cannot be late! On the downbeat, Mr. Nada! It’s right here on your page! Let me show you! Let me mark your score so you can’t miss it again!”
What was the bellowing man saying? The Small Hole glanced quickly around now, excited. Because something was happening now. Yes, now the bellowing man was standing near him, drawing a circle in pencil now. A circle around … him! Around the Small Hole! The bellowing man was drawing a circle around the Small Hole, which of course meant the bellowing man had been talking about the Small Hole!
And now the Small Hole suddenly understood something he never had understood before. Something that made everything make sense at last. Because the Small Hole was not a hole at all after all, after all. He was a musical note. Sitting in the middle of a sheet of lined music paper, all alone. All alone – because he was so important.
“The most important moment in this whole work,” the bellowing man, who really was the orchestra conductor, had called the Small Hole. “The climax of this great symphony by this great composer,” the bellowing orchestra conductor man had added. Then the bellowing conductor had drawn that circle in pencil around him, around the Small Hole.
Yes, the Small Hole understood now for sure, for sure. He wasn’t a Small Hole. He was a Big Note. He was the Big Note that made the cymbals of the orchestra crash loudly together at just the right time at just the right place in the music for everyone in the audience to enjoy. For sure, the most important musical note in this great symphony by this great composer!
And the Big Note understood one thing more, for sure. He understood that this is how it goes sometimes, for sure, for sure. Because sometimes we are sitting just a little too close to the page to see everything, that’s all. Sometimes it all looks just too big all around us to recognize our real place among it all, that’s all.
Sometimes we have a more important purpose, much more important, than we think. Yes, this is what the Big Note understood at last. Except sometimes we just need someone to draw a circle around us, in pencil, to show us what we were missing all along.
MORAL: Each of us has an important purpose once we recognize it for ourselves. _______________________________________________________________________________
No, no, no, no! No was No-Time Nora’s favorite word. Often she would say, while hurrying past him or her in some frantic flurry, “No! Sorry! No time!” No time for coffee with a colleague. Sorry! No time for sewing with her sister. Sorry! No time for a film with a friend. Sorry! No, nor time to stop and listen, nor time to stop and chat. Nora was far too busy for frivolous stuff, for time-wasting things like that.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry! Gotta go feed the dog! And then the cat,” she would blurt into her cellphone while darting door to door, car to apartment, in very few seconds. Usually just 26 seconds flat. Though with her arms loaded with grocery bags, Nora would sometimes wave one spare finger, very quickly, toward her neighbors Paula, Spencer and Nat.
No-Time Nora had showers to scour, you see. Washing to wash, dusting to dust. Endless errands, a list of things-to-do that filled up her day. Important stuff, time-taking chores like that. And when they were done, just before bed, there was always the company of her dog. And her cat.
There was no time at all for doing with others. There just were not two seconds in her day to give two seconds to anyone at all. She never could squeeze in one instant for friendly frolics or friendships, she never could eek out one moment for moments of family fun. Though sometimes Nora paused long enough to admire her checklists showing all the chores she just got done.
Of course, none of Nora’s “no’s” was entirely necessary. Her shower was completely mildew-free. Even her dog was scrubbed down and her cat was washed clean. As were Nora’s doors and windows and every one of her window screens.
But at least her busywork life kept her so, so, so busy. So busy she had almost no time to notice how busy she was being unhappy. No-Time Nora just numbly buzzed with a busy loneliness throughout each busywork day. With no one and nothing in her busy life but one fat dog. And one very fat cat. And one sparkling shower – oh yes, and also one totally spotless white bathmat.
Until one day, Nat helped Nora with an armload of groceries, smiled and said to her, “Nora, my neighbor, some of us plan to help out another neighbor who needs some real help this weekend, just down the street. I know you’re always rushing off to do chores in a frantic flurry. But why not help us help our neighbor for just two hours – or just one hour’s helping if you really have to hurry?”
She could at last meet all the nice neighbors in their nice neighborhood, Nat told Nora. Giving two of her busy hours to someone else might make her smile more than she seemed to smile now. She could set aside for a while, Nat suggested, all the endless chores of her frantic, flurried life. Nora might even talk a bit with Spencer and Paula – who, Nat explained, were his son and his wife.
Nora pondered Nat’s invitation for just a moment. For two seconds Nora gave his suggestion a first and second thought. Maybe she really needed to meet some people. Maybe doing something for somebody else would do her some good. Maybe a nice smile with some nice neighbors would make a nice change. And with Paula and Spencer, she might even have some pleasant words to exchange.
But you know, of course, how No-Time Nora answered Nat. “No” was the first of the few short words in her no-time reply. “No time for helping neighbors, but thanks, Nat – goodbye!”
Sometime later, after Nat was gone, Nora told herself she really would like to help her needy neighbor. Why, of course she would! Because she was a giving person after all. If, if, if only there were more hours in her busy, busy day. But on the big neighbor-helping weekend, of course, she really had to scrub down the dog and clean up the cat. “And then there’s that dirty shower to scour,” Nora reminded herself, “and I really, really must wash that filthy white bathmat!”
Time for sharing herself with others was time that No-Time Nora always seemed to lack. Besides, when she had tried sharing herself with others, in the long ago past, others sometimes didn’t share themselves back. Life was so, so much simpler with just her one sparkling shower and her one fat dog – and her one very fat cat.
MORAL: Sharing ourselves with others is essential to a full, meaningful life. __________________________________________________________________________
Upon some time lived Jennifer once. Writing a children’s book, she was, all in lovely scented verse. Writing only once, perhaps twice, a month. Perhaps. When she could find some time.
This was how Jennifer’s scented children’s book began:
“Music comes alive at night, you know.
Every note has ears to hear.
It listens for the first sound of your snore.
And waits for your dreams to come near.”
Enchanted imagination was Jennifer’s great gift, telling us of things no one else could think to tell. Much more than these few lovely words, oh yes, Jennifer had almost written. But all the rest was still locked inside her head, just dancing and humming to get out for some young someone-else to read.
Just when Jennifer’s words would be unlocked free, oh my – this was anyone’s guess. If those words would ever be unlocked at all. Because Jennifer was so generous, you see. “Generous Jen,” her family all called her. Jen’s fingertips were usually far too busy helping someone else with something else for those fingertips to unlock her enchanted imagination. Whether that help for someone else was needed much or not.
No matter how many other fingertips were busy baking cookies for the church bake sale, Generous Jen always volunteered her fingertips too. No matter that her mother rarely wore some pair of worn pants – Generous Jen hemmed them up some half-inch higher with her busy fingertips. Just in case her mother changed her mind. Every friend who didn’t really need help packing up to move got Jennifer’s generous help anyway. Every friend of a friend who didn’t really need a ride to the airport got their ride anyway from Generous Jen.
There was not a “no” bone in her body any time anyone hinted they might prefer a “yes” from Jennifer. Always giving, giving, giving something or other to someone who didn’t really need her smallish gifts. That was Generous Jennifer.
If that’s what real giving really means, of course.
Because some gifts are gifts much easier to give than others, perhaps. Perhaps.
Much easier to give, at least, than writing scented verses.
MORAL: Society benefits most when each individual shares their greatest gifts.
Thomas was a technical type. Totally. His colleagues in IT called him TT. To them, he was “Techie Tom.” But he felt sure all the Ts in his nickname were merely a teasing for him, initials given not with affection but with disdain. His colleagues didn’t really like him, TT would think each day. No one wanted him around. Except for his whiz-bang wizardry on the Internet, he was a man of little interest and lesser use to anybody. Or so TT thought.
Eating lunch this day, alone as usual and thinking typically techie things, TT picked up a magazine. One article instantly caught his attention. “The Humanity Project helps people live more happily through learning to give to others,” the story read. TT scratched his earlobe and other parts. A bit of smelly tuna was stuck to his lip when he lowered the magazine and said out loud, to himself only, “What does that mean anyway? That’s stupid! What do I have to give anyone?”
But TT kept turning the magazine pages. Because the magazine article next said, “The Humanity Project teaches us to focus our actions and thoughts on giving all we can to others each day, without expecting reward or fearing rejection. This ‘giving life’ connects our daily individual efforts to something larger than any one person: humanity. And that can help bring us each greater meaning and happiness.” Now TT was terribly troubled. In an untypically testy display of emotion, he tossed the magazine to the table and stalked angrily from the lunchroom. “‘A giving life!’” he tsked and snorted over and over, walking back to his safe, separate cubicle.
On the way, TT passed two techie colleagues talking about music or something. He never listened to anyone’s untechie chatter and heard not two words. So he did not overhear one colleague telling the other that they’d never find a drummer for their weekend jazz trio. Of course, TT had played the drums all through high school. Still had a drum set hidden in his closet. “‘A giving life!’” TT snorted again as he walked past.
TT still tsked and snuffled as he passed Theresa’s cubicle, who looked up from her techie tinkering long enough to sigh to herself, “TT’s such a cute guy! Too bad he doesn’t like anyone around here.” Then she watched him stalk past her and she got a funny, sad, if-only look in her two eyes. Down the techie hall, TT closed his ears again and hurried by someone who was touring techie cubicles collecting donations for some good cause or other that didn’t concern him anyway. Back within his safe, separate cubicle space now, TT did not phone his mother who was ill or his older sister who missed his voice or his younger brother who had always admired him. And TT, who loved and understood baseball, did not make plans to coach a Little League team that season or support the local major leaguers by attending even one game. After all, TT had a TV. And after work, TT did not take his seriously major techie talents down the street to the struggling school with all the broken computer terminals. The list of did-nots is too long to list here, in toto. Instead, TT fired up a microwave pizza, alone at home as usual, and turned on the ballgame. “‘A giving life!’” TT tsked one last time, to himself. “I’ve got nothing at all to give. And even if I did, who would want it anyway?”
MORAL: Each individual has something important to share with others.