The Wise Snail
One windy evening, just as Spring
was ending, a tiny snail began climbing up the trunk of a tall
cherry tree. A slice of moon was
rising in the eastern sky, and
darkness was nigh.
Some sparrows in a neighboring oak
tree saw the snail and began laughing at him. One of the sparrows, an especially mean-spirited bird, flew down and landed near the little snail.
"What an ugly, stupid creature you
are!" said the sparrow. "Don't you
know it's not cherry season yet?"
She glanced upward at the barren
branches. "Darling, there are NO
cherries on this tree!"
However, the snail never even paused. He continued climbing ever so slowly. "But the cherries WILL be
there when I reach the top," said
the little snail. "It will take me
a long, long time to climb to the
top of this tree. And when I do,
the cherries will be there."
The snail pointed one antenna toward
the arc of moon, shining through the
trees. "That new moon is my model,"
said the snail. "It teaches me the
importance of gradualness and deliberation, and how one gives birth to oneself slowly. I am patient with details, and that makes
perfect the larger work of my life."
"Perfect?" said the sparrow. "But LOOK at you! You have no nest, no
home. You can't fly around and find
food!" The sparrow gave a snort of
disgust. "You are a sad, sad creature! I would HATE to be you!"
The snail smiled and said, "You are
mistaken," Sweet Sparrow. "I am very
contented. I love being exactly as I
am. My shell is my home, and I create it out of whatever I come
across, cementing it with my own
juices. Instinctively, I make my path toward the best possible material for my shell."
The snail chuckled, "I carry my history on my back, living in it,
and adding new and larger spirals
to it as I go. I wouldn't change one
thing about my life."
The sparrow was dumbfounded. Never in her life had she met a contented
creature. She listened in silence as
the snail continued:
"Don't be a Sauercroat," said the snail. "It's beneath your dignity.
You're a lovely creature."
"A Sauercroat?" gasped the sparrow.
"What's a Sauercroat?"
"A Sauercroat," said the snail, "is
someone who tries to make another
being feel bad about himself -- like
you just did to me. The snail continued climbing slowly as he talked. "Most Sauercroats are unhappy with some aspect of their
lives. But instead of making the needed changes that will restore their souls to contentment, they
choose to make someone else feel
even worse than they do." The snail
chuckled again. "The rationale, I
guess, is that if you make me feel
bad about myself, then you will
feel better about yourself."
The sparrow was stunned. She said
nothing for a full minute, lost in
thought. Then in a gentle, humble
tone, she said, "I hate to admit it,
Snail, but you're right. I WAS being
a Sauercroat when I said you were
ugly and stupid." Tears dropped from
her wide eyes. "Actually, you're a
wise and beautiful creature. I'm SO
glad you came into my life today!
I'll be a better sparrow because of
The snail smiled warmly. "I'll meet
you at the top of the tree in a few
months, my friend. We'll dine on
"Done," said the sparrow. "I'll see
you up there. And, yes, the cherries
WILL be there! Take good care of
The sparrow fluttered her wings and
began flying back toward her companions in the oak tree. The last
thing the snail heard her say, was a
reminder to herself: "Don't be a