25 June, 2012

A Pessimistic Dog

There was once a farmer who devised a competition between his dog and his rabbit. He made a hole in one of his biggest fields, and hid a carrot and a bone in it. He wanted to see which animal would find them first.
The rabbit was very cheerful and optimistic, and he threw himself into looking for the carrot, digging here and there, totally convinced that he would find it. But the dog was pessimistic, and after sniffing around for a bit, he lay down on the ground and began to complain how difficult it was to find one bone in such a big field.

The rabbit dug for hours, and with every new hole the dog complained even more about how difficult this was, even for the rabbit. The rabbit, on the other hand, thought that each hole dug was one hole less that needed digging. When there was no place in the whole field left to dig, the rabbit dug a tunnel to right under where the dog had been lying all that time. There he found the carrot and the bone.

And this is how it was that the dog lost due to his pessimism. Because, thanks to his great instinct, he had already found the right place at the very beginning!

Many of our natural shortfalls can be replaced by a positive attitude and perseverance.

The Ticklish Kid

Pete Sparks was a sensitive boy. So sensitive that even his hair was ticklish. You only had to touch his hair a little bit and he would burst out laughing. And when this ticklish laughter started, no one could make him stop.

So Pete grew up used to strange situations. When his granny’s friends came to visit, he would always end up in stitches because there was never any shortage of little old ladies rubbing his head and saying “How cute!”
Windy days were the worst, with Pete on the ground, paralyzed by laughter whenever the breeze blew on his locks, which, incidentally, were pretty long because at the barber shop no one could manage to cut his hair, due to the non-stop giggling. To see Pete laugh, as well as being great fun, was terribly contagious. When Pete started feeling ticklish, everyone ended up in endless laughter, and they had to just give up whatever they were doing.

As Pete grew up, people started to ban him from certain places. Some activities are serious business, and cannot be done amid gales of laughter. So Pete tried everything to control his ticklishness: he tried wearing a thousand different hats, he used ultra strong hairsprays and gels, he shaved his head, and he even went on a yoga course to see if he could bear the tickling by learning to relax himself.

But nothing worked; it was impossible. He wanted, with all his heart, to just be a normal boy. So, as time went on, he began to feel sad and ill-fated for being different.

This went on until, one day in the street, he met a special clown. The clown was very old and could hardly walk, but when he saw Pete in tears, he went to cheer him up. It didn’t take long to make Pete laugh, and they started to talk. Pete told him about his ticklish problem, and he asked the clown how such an old man could carry on being a clown.

“I have no one to replace me”, said the clown, “and I have a very serious job to do”. Pete looked at him, surprised, and thought “serious? A clown?”, trying to understand what the old man had told him.
“Come, I’ll show you” said the clown.

So the clown took Pete all over the city, to many hospitals, shelters, refuges, schools… All were full of children who were sick, or orphaned, children with very serious problems. But as soon as they saw the clown, their faces changed completely and lit up with a smile. Their short while spent with the clown changed everything for them, but that day was even more special, because in every show Pete’s ticklishness would inevitably make an appearance, and his contagious laughter would end up with the kids laid on the floor, dying with laughter.

When the visit came to an end, the old clown winked at Pete and said “Now do you see what a serious job it is? That’s why I can’t retire, even at my age”.

“It’s true,” answered Pete, smiling and returning the wink, “not everyone could do it, you have to have a special gift for laughter. And that’s so hard to find”. This said, the wind again set off his ticklishness and his laughter.

And that is how Pete became a clown, and replaced the special old man. And from that day onward, the fact that Pete was different actually made him happy, thanks to his special gift.

Everything which makes us different makes us, at the same time, special, and there are always ways to benefit from these gifts

The Deductive Mr. Horsefly

Mr. Horsefly was the new head of the prairie post office. He had put a lot of time and effort into getting this highly respected position; he had even moved fields. If you asked Mr. Horsefly, he would tell you that he got the job thanks to his great deductive gifts.

On his first day at work, he opened up shop, and into the post office came Mr. Beetle, Mrs Spider, Miss Mantis, and Mr. Grasshopper.

Mr. Horsefly wouldn't let them so much as open their mouths.
"Don't tell me, don't tell me. I bet I can work out what each of you came for," he said, putting a book, a plastic mat, a nail file, and some protective goggles on the counter.

"The nail file will be for Mrs. Spider, without a doubt. With all the scratching she does, she'll need to put her nails right. “The mat”, he went on, without giving anyone time to react, "without even having to think about it, I give it to Mr. Grasshopper, since he must have to train pretty hard to keep all his hopping about up to a decent standard. The safety goggles have to be for Mr. Beetle, because having to spend all day with his face so close to the ground, he'll be needing something to protect his eyes. And finally, this big book here, has to be a Bible. I'll have to give that to Miss Praying Mantis, whom I would like to ask to include me in her supplications to The Almighty. As you will see..."

They didn't let him finish. The comment about the mantis - well known on the prairie for having changed her name from Miss Praying Mantis to simply Miss Mantis - was just too much for everyone, and they burst out laughing...

"Not much of a detective, are you!" said Mr. Grasshopper, between chuckles. "For a start, Mrs. Spider came for the book. She's very quiet, and doesn't scratch a soul. The mat is for Mr. Beetle, who likes to sunbathe in his swimming pool, and do it lying on his back. Miss Mantis will, of course, want the nail file. She's a bit of a flirt, you know. And the protective goggles are for me. I'm not as young as I was, and don't see to well. These days when I'm hopping on the grass I get the odd black eye..."

“Uhu”, Mr. Horsefly interrupted, recovering a little from his embarrassment, "then you do, in fact, hop on grass!"

"Yes, I do," answered the grasshopper, "but as you'll see, making your deductions based simply on prejudice, leads to more misses than hits..."

How right he was! Just a few days later, after having met all the insects in person, Mr. Horsefly had a good laugh while telling this story about his deductions made from prejudice without yet having met a soul. And he understood that judging without knowing is a practice for fools.

You can’t judge anyone based purely on stereotypes.

The Day of Silence

Reggie couldn't hear a thing. He was a normal boy, but he had been born deaf. He was well known to everyone in town, and they were all very fond of him. Unfortunately, though, he always seemed to end up being treated differently from everyone else. Children worried that they would hurt him, that maybe he wouldn't hear the ball being hit in his direction. Adults acted like he was incapable of understanding them, as though he was some kind of baby.

Reggie didn't like this very much. But the person who disliked it the most was his friend Michael, who decided one day that things had to change. Michael's father was the town´s Mayor, and Michael managed to convince him that this year, in honour of Reggie, they should dedicate one day of the festival to deaf people. During that whole day everyone in town would have to wear earplugs.

People liked the idea, because everyone loved Reggie. The day became known as The Day of Silence, and when it arrived everyone stuck plugs in their ears, in a spirit of great fun. That morning was filled with practical jokes, mischief and laughter. But, as the hours passed, people became more and more aware of how difficult life was when you couldn't hear anything. However, learning about how life was more difficult for the deaf was nothing compared to the greatest discovery of the day: Reggie was amazing!

On that day no one was thinking of Reggie as just a deaf person. This meant he could be treated just like any other little boy; and people saw a whole new side of him. Not only that, but Reggie had a bright and sharp mind. On that day, using his usual gestures, Reggie was the one who could communicate best with everyone. This meant that people paid more attention to what he was saying, and they were surprised by his intelligence, his creativity, and his ability to find solutions to almost any problem. They realised that he had always been like that, and that in normal life all Reggie needed was a little more time than others to communicate. That was the only difference.

So the Day of Silence was the day Reggie´s true nature became known. And it was the day everyone realised you have to give people a chance to show how valuable they are. People in town wanted to make sure that others would learn this lesson. So, from that day on, whenever a visitor came to town, they were welcomed joyfully and a helmet was plonked on their head. A helmet with great thick ear flaps; a helmet which meant you couldn't hear the slightest thing.

We should give everyone with a disability a chance to show their good qualities. We should treat them as normally as possible.

The Red Moon

There was once a little grey planet that was very sad. The people living there hadn't looked after it, despite them having all the inventions and space ships you could ever need. They had contaminated the whole countryside so much with rubbish and pollution that there were no plants or animals left.

One day, a little boy was walking on the planet, when he passed a cave and noticed a small red flower inside. The flower was very sick - almost dying - so the boy carefully dug up the flower, with roots, soil and everything. Then, he started looking for a place where he could look after it. He searched all over the planet, but everywhere was so contaminated that there was no place the flower could possibly live in. Then he looked up at the sky and noticed the moon. It seemed to the boy that maybe the plant could survive there.
So the little boy put on his astronaut suit, and climbed into a space ship. He put the little red flower in the back, and off they went to the moon.

Far away from all that pollution - and with the boy visiting it every day to tend it - the flower started to grow. The flower was so well cared for, that it had soon germinated, giving birth to others, and these other flowers spread onto other flowers. Before long, the whole moon was completely covered with flowers.
That's why, whenever the little boy's flowers open up, for a few minutes the moon takes on a soft red sheen, like a warning light. Maybe it's telling us that if you don't look after your planet, a day will come when flowers will only be able to grow on the moon.

If we don’t actively care for the environment, it could seriously deteriorate

The Magic Blackboard

Once upon a time a boy was walking through a little forest when he found a big blackboard hanging on an old tree trunk. It came complete with a box of chalk pieces, and bright sparks were flying from the tips of every piece of chalk. The boy took a piece of chalk and started to draw on the board: first a tree, then a rabbit, then a flower...

Magically, whenever he finished a figure it came to life and jumped out of the board. Before long, the place had become a wonderfully green and fertile forest, full of animals happily playing.
Excited, the boy also drew his parents and brothers and sisters enjoying a picnic, with their sandwiches and cold meats. He also drew the paper plates and the empty tins of sardines left on the ground, which always happened on their picnics. But when these bits of litter came to life something awful happened: around every paper plate and every empty tin, the forest turned grey, and this greyness started quickly spreading everywhere: to the grass, to the flowers, to the animals... The boy realised the litter was to blame for all the greyness, so he ran through the forest with the blackboard rubber in his hand to rub them out wherever they had landed.

He was lucky. He was quick, and didn't leave a single piece of litter. The forest and its animals managed to recover, and they played together for the rest of the day.

The boy never again saw that blackboard, but now, every time he goes to the countryside with his family, he remembers that adventure and is the first to pick up any litter. And he is sure to remind the others that anything left lying in the woods can do more damage to the animals than they ever would have suspected.

Some things you can’t leave in the countryside because they do harm to the environment and living things.

Squidge Attack

Everyone knows that the history of our planet changed forever some time after the Beijing Olympic Games. The world's coasts and seas filled up with a very dangerous and polluting species of creature, which looked like a squid, but was called a "Squidge".

The squidges were everywhere, and impossible to catch. But the worst aspect of it was that they were filling up the seas with oil, tins, paper, and all kinds of rubbish. It was a terrible situation; the whole planet was quickly contaminated, and advanced investigation teams and hunting expeditions were set up to try to deal with this new plague. But no one could even get close to catching a squidge.

Finally, the first person to manage it was a boy called Caesar Tiddler. Caesar lived in a small fishing village, and when he held up his squidge at a press conference, he became the most famous boy in the world. That small fishing village was overrun by scientists and government investigators, who came from all over the planet to study the species. Everything was prepared for a post mortem to be done on the squidge, an operation that would be watched on live television around the world.

So imagine the amazement when, on cutting the squidge open, a tiny space ship the size of a shoe was found inside, and inside that space ship were some Martians. Now, these Martians turned out to be quite charming, amusing, and clever little chaps. Before long, they were busy talking to governments, who were all very angry at the way the Martians had been messing up the planet. The governments expected some kind of explanation for the Martians having behaved in such an uncivilised fashion...
-"We came from a planet that was going to be destroyed,"
the Martians began to explain.

-"We liked the Earth so much that we spent many days spying on how you human beings behave. We thought that would help us to blend in if we came here, and it would help us all get along happily together. That's why, after seeing you dump tins, paper, and oil, we invented some expensive machines to do just that. We hid them inside the disguise of a squid, and we tried to live happily there, in peace. Are you all happy? Can we stay here? Finallllyyyyy?"

The Martian Squidge-men waited for an answer. But no one uttered a word.
Everyone, including the billions watching on TV, were red with embarrassment, remembering the last time they had thrown away a piece of paper, or their car had leaked some oil on the road.
And all of us who saw it, we still remember how a few unsuspecting little Martians made us realise how little we care for our planet.

To care for the natural world we need to act responsibly in our everyday actions, no matter how small.

Robot with a Virus

Ricky lived in a lovely, futuristic house, which had everything you could ever want. Though he didn't help much around the house, Ricky was still as pleased as punch when his parents bought him the latest model of butler robot. As soon as it arrived, off it went; cooking, cleaning, ironing, and - most importantly - gathering up old clothes from Ricky's bedroom floor, which Ricky didn't like having to walk on. On that first day, when Ricky went to sleep, he had left his bedroom in a truly disastrous state. When he woke up the next morning, everything was perfectly clean and tidy.

In fact, it was actually "too" clean; now Ricky couldn't find his favourite t-shirt, nor his favourite toy. However much he searched, the two items did not reappear, and the same was starting to happen with other things. Ricky cast a suspicious eye on the gleaming butler robot. He hatched a plan to spy on the robot, and began following it around the house. Finally he caught it red-handed, picking up one of Ricky's toys to hide it.

Off he went, running to his parents, to tell them that the butler was broken and badly programmed. Ricky asked them to have it changed. But his parents told him absolutely not; it was impossible, they were delighted with the new butler, and it cooked like a dream. So Ricky needed to get some kind of proof; maybe take some hidden photos.

He kept on at his parents, about how much good stuff the robot was hiding. This outweighed however good a cook it was, Ricky argued.
One day, the robot was whirring past, and heard the boy's complaints. The robot returned with one of the boy's toys, and some clothes for him.

"Here, sir. I did not know it was bothering you," said the butler, with its metallic voice.
"How could it not, you thief?! You've been nicking my stuff for weeks!" the boy answered, furiously.
"The objects were left on the floor. I therefore calculated that you did not like them. I am programmed to collect all that is not wanted, and at night I send it to places other humans can use it. I am a maximum efficiency machine. Were you unaware?" the robot said, with a certain pride.

Ricky started feeling ashamed. He had spent all his life treating things as though they were useless. He looked after nothing. Yet it was true that many other people would be delighted to treat those things with all the care in the world. And he understood that the robot was neither broken nor misprogrammed, rather, it had been programmed extremely well!

Since then, Ricky decided to become a 'Maximum Efficiency Boy', and he put real care into how he treated his things. He kept them tidy, and made sure he didn't have more than was necessary. And, often, he would buy things, and take them along with his good friend, the robot, to help out those other people who needed them.

Treating things well, with care, is also a sign of respect to those who cannot enjoy such things, and who –given the chance – would surely treat them well.

The Special Chair

There was once a boy called Mario who loved to have loads of friends. He showed off a lot, always talking about how many friends he had at school, and how he was so friendly with everyone.
One day his grandfather said to him,
-"Mario, I bet you a big bag of popcorn you don't have as many friends as you think. I'm sure many of them are nothing more than companions, acquaintances, or partners in crime."

Mario accepted the bet without hesitation. However, he wasn't sure how he could test whether or not his schoolmates were real friends, so he asked his grandpa. The old man answered,
-"I have just exactly what you need, it's in the attic. Wait here a minute."

Grandpa left, soon returning as though carrying something in his hand, but Mario could see nothing there.
-"Take it. It's a very special chair. Because it's invisible it's rather tricky to sit on, but if you take it to school and you manage to sit on it, you'll activate its magic and you'll be able to tell who your real friends are.”
Mario, brave and determined, took the strange invisible chair and set off for school. At break time he asked everyone to form a circle, and he put himself in the middle, with his chair.

-"Nobody move. You're about to see something amazing."
And Mario attempted sitting on the chair. Having difficulty seeing it, he missed and fell straight onto his backside. Everyone had a pretty good laugh.

-"Wait, wait, just a slight technical problem,"
he said, making another attempt. But again he missed the seat, causing more surprised looks, and a few cat calls. Mario wouldn't be beaten. He kept trying to sit on the magic chair, and kept falling to the ground... until, suddenly, he tried again and didn't fall. This time he sat, hovering in mid-air...

Then it was that he finally experienced the magic that his grandfather had been talking about. Looking around, Mario saw George, Lucas, and Diana - three of his best friends - holding him up, so he wouldn't fall. Meanwhile, many others he had thought of as friends had done nothing but make fun of him, enjoying each and every fall.

And there the show came to an end. Leaving with his three friends, he explained to them how his grandfather had so cleverly thought of a way to show him that true friends are those who care for us, and not just any acquaintance who happens to be passing by. Even less would a friend be someone who takes joy in our misfortunes.

That evening the four children went to see Mario's grandpa to pay out the bet. They had a great time listening to stories, and eating popcorn until fit to burst. And, from then on, they used the magic chair test on quite a few occasions. And whoever passed it became friends for life.

Not everyone around us is a real friend. True friends care for us.

06 June, 2012

Honest Ladybirds...

A strange legend has it that ladybirds forgive but don't forget. Apparently, at first they didn't have their distinctive black spots. The ladybirds had been pushed to the verge of extinction when, while being led by their famous guide, Caius Insectus, a storm flooded the path they were travelling. Caius Insectus disappeared into the flood, and the few ladybirds who survived had to choose a new guide and leader. They decided that their new leader would be the first ladybird to successfully travel south to the Great Lake and return to describe it.

Many young ladybirds eagerly launched themselves into this adventure. One by one they returned and told of how beautiful the southern lake was at that time of year, with its crystal clear waters, bordered by flowered meadows. However, the last of the ladybirds was late in getting back. They waited for him for three days, and when he finally returned, he was downcast and embarrassed. He hadn't managed to reach the lake. Everyone criticised him for his slowness and stupidity, and they prepared to continue their journey the next day.

Following their new guide, they spent a morning walking northwards until they reached some tall thick grassland, where they halted, astonished. In front of them was the Great Lake! But there were no crystal clear waters, or flowered meadows. The heavy rain had turned it into a huge green puddle surrounded by mud.

Everyone understood what had happened. Without realising it, they had been swept beyond the lake by the flood. When the ladybirds had gone out looking for the lake, they had gone in the wrong direction. Now they could see that, apart from that one late ladybird, they had all wanted to be the Great Guide, and they had not had any qualms to lie in order to get what they wanted.

And so, the late little ladybird, the only one who they now really trusted, was made the Great Guide. They also decided that every time one of them was discovered lying they would paint a black spot on that ladybird's back, so there'd be no way to erase it. Nor would a ladybird know how many spots they had on their back. From then on, when a ladybird looks at another's back, it can tell whether that ladybird is trustworthy.

Likewise, when people show themselves to be dishonest other people paint spots on their impressions of them. It's enough to have just one black spot to change from a simple red insect into a ladybird. So, no matter what the prize may be, we should not allow anyone to paint that spot upon us.
Honesty is valued by all, and when we are dishonest, people lose faith in us.