Growing up, Aesop’s fables were my constant companion- in and out of school. The very first illustrated copy that I owned was an abridged version for kids that contained a dozen short stories.
The Hare and the Tortoise, Crow and the Pitcher, Bell and the cat were some of the predominant few that are probably commonly known childhood staples.
Now these were no ordinary tales, although they would definitely seem so on the surface. Every story however small it was, would come with a moral, our teacher invariably asking after reading us a story, “So kids, what did we learn from this?”
The Hare and the tortoise teaches us that slow and steady wins the race, Crow and the Pitcher instills a sense of entrepreneurship and Bell and the cat focuses on devising ideas that are actually actionable.
The little kid brain of my mine would come alive with the chatter of those characters Aesop created, and as years passed by, all of these animals started becoming more and more human.
A classmate that just played and didn’t study became the grasshopper from the “Ants and the Grasshopper”, a very intelligent but lazy friend who was never a top 5 in the class became the hare from the “The Hare and the Tortoise” and the enterprising kid from a disadvantaged family became the Crow in the “Crow and the Pitcher”.
The lines between the stories and life became quite blurred. Needless to say his words were a huge influence on me growing up.
One story of his, which I have realized I have grown fonder(?) of, over the years is that of the Lion and the mouse. Let me quickly recap it for here for if you have never had the chance to read it or memory betrays you at this point. So, here goes:
There was a forest in which lived a lion and a mouse. The mouse accidentally ran over the Lion’s nose, which awoke the lion from his nap. The lion, visibly agitated, was about to kill the mouse when she begged him for mercy promising to help him in the future.
The lion, although amused by this offer, was generous enough to let her go. Some time passed, and one day, the lion was captured by the hunters and was roaring as he was trying to let himself free of the nets. The mouse, upon hearing and recognizing Lion’s voice, comes to the rescue, nibbles on the ropes of the net and sets him free, ultimately making good on his promise.
Every time I am done reading an Aesop fable, I still hear my Primary school teacher’s voice in my head. “So what’s the moral of story kids?”
Pretty simple and straightforward. Isn’t it?
No act of Kindness is ever wasted. But let me atrociously paraphrase it – BE KIND.
Given the situation all of us find ourselves in, with a virus bringing the world to an unanticipated grinding halt, I can’t stop myself from saying that doing that is more important now than ever.
It is so heart breaking to see stories of mass unemployment and people hardly being able to make ends meet.
But then I also see people stepping up and helping out – sometimes by funding campaigns to save local restaurants, sometimes, tipping a restaurant 200 times their check, there is even a group of young professionals in the apartment building that I live in – which volunteers to do the grocery run to help out the elderly so they help them avoid the risk of infection.
The full bins earmarked for food donation at the local grocery stores, make me hopeful.
The other day when I was out for a walk, I noticed a poster stapled to one of the pillars by the road side that said “A smile doesn’t cost you anything, but can make someone’s day”. Couldn’t agree more, having been on the receiving end of such kindness on so many occasions.
There is a colleague at the office, whom I have seen taking the kindness mantra to heart. She has a sticky note on her desktop that says:
(in bold letters, very hard to miss)
I just couldn’t help myself and ended up asking her, why so many times? And what unkind thing do you do anyway? (She is a really pleasant woman, you would love talking to, by the way) and she tells me this.
“When in conversations with people, I try to ‘really’ listen when they are speaking,
I try to make eye contact and smile every now and then.
Don’t think of me as Mother Teresa or anything, just that I hope that they extend the same courtesy to me when their turn comes”
This may sound selfish on the surface, but that’s one selfish thing that wouldn’t harm anyone in the world. Or would it?
Definitely not – Aesop agrees.