The Wise Snail
by Owen

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 this meeting."

The snail smiled warmly. "I'll meet you at the top of the tree in a few
months, my friend. We'll dine on cherries together."

"Done," said the sparrow. "I'll see you up there. And, yes, the cherries WILL be there! Take good care of yourself."

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