Monthly Archives: May 2013

Zippy the Zebra

Zippy had walked a long distance in the African savannah to reach a small lake. He eagerly quenched his thirst and went to rest under the cool shade of a baobab tree.
Zippy tried to fall asleep, but he felt uncomfortable and very itchy. For days, there had been tiny fleas all over his body. He tried to get rid of the fleas by swishing his tail from side to side. He tried to get rid of the fleas by thumping his four legs one by one on the ground. He even tried thumping all four legs at once! He rubbed his whole body against the tree trunk. He tried to get rid of some fleas by licking his face with his long tongue. But nothing seemed to work! The fleas just wouldn’t go away! No swishing or licking, and no rubbing and thumping, could make them leave him. Finally, he became so tired and irritated that he rolled on the ground with his feet up in the air.
He saw two little birds perched on a branch of the mighty baobab. They made a lot of noise, winked at each other and darted down. “Wow, that
was something. Are you O.K., Pick?” “Sure, Peck, I’m fine! Ehh- hi, I’m Pick!” “And I am Peck, hi!” With a sheepish smile, Zippy got to his feet. “Ahem, nice to meet you. I am Zippy.” “You have such deliciously tempting fleas on you!” Pick and Peck settled down on Zippy’s back. “Delicious?” groaned Zippy, “I am totally bugged by them! I just can’t get them off, no matter how hard I try.”

“We are very hungry, Zippy, and we love fleas. May we eat up all these… nasty creatures?” asked Pick and Peck. “Sure! Be my guests!” exclaimed
Zippy delighted.
The birds began. They pecked at the fleas on his face and legs, they cleaned Zippy’s belly and cleaned Zippy’s back. The zebra stood still, letting the birds eat their fill. And finally, they were all happy.
The zebra had been freed of the annoying fleas and the two birds had enjoyed a splendid meal. “Thank you very much for pecking those nasty fleas off my body.” “Oh! We must thank you, for providing us with such a flea meal – free meal.” Animals helping each other – as Pick and Peck helped Zippy – is called symbiosis.




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Turtle’s Flute

Once upon a time, on the banks of a river, Turtle played her flute. When Turtle played, lions, elephants, butterflies, snakes and monkeys danced to Turtle’s music.

One day, a man heard Turtle’s music. “Ahh,” he thought. “That must be Turtle making music. Turtle would taste very good right now.” So he called out: “Turtle! Show me your beautiful flute.” Turtle slowly walked to the door and held out her flute. But the moment the man saw Turtle, he grabbed her by the neck and began to run. Turtle tried to cry for help, but she couldn’t make a sound. She closed her eyes, holding tightly to her flute for good luck.

When the man reached his hut, he put Turtle into a cage and shut it. Then he turned to his children: “Don’t let Turtle out of her cage.” And off he went to the fields. The children began to play outside. Turtle sat very still inside her cage, thinking about the father’s words. She began to play a sweet tune on her flute, and the children ran to the cage. “Is that you playing, Turtle?”  they asked, their eyes wide with wonder. “Yes,” Turtle said. She kept on playing, for she could see the children were delighted.

At last she stopped. “I can dance even better than I can play,” she said.  “Would you like to see?” “Oh, please!” the little boy cried. “I’ll show you
how to dance and play at the same time,” said Turtle. “But you must open the cage. There is no room in here.” So the little boy opened the cage and Turtle began to dance and play. The children laughed and clapped their hands, for never had they seen such a wonderful thing.

Then Turtle stopped. “Don’t stop!” the children cried. “Oh,” Turtle groaned.  “My legs are stiff. If I could just walk a little bit to loosen them …” “Don’t go too far,” the little girl cautioned. “Come right back.” “Never fear,” said Turtle.

“You wait right here.” Turtle crawled off toward the jungle. The moment she was out of sight, she raced all the way back to her house.  Nobody ever found Turtle again. But to this day, if you strain your ear, you can hear the sweet sound of a flute in the forest.


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Tucket the Bucket

Tucket was the saddest bucket in the world. He had once been a garden favorite. The gardener used to swing him by his strong handle as he went to fetch water. “What a good bucket,” he said. But as time passed, Tucket the bucket grew a hole. Suddenly he was useless. What good is a bucket with a hole? Tucket was tossed into the corner of the garden. He was left out in the rain and the sun, and began to rust. Sometimes he even got kicked around. “I should throw that bucket away”, the gardener muttered.

Tucket didn’t want to be thrown away. He felt very sad, though his good friends in the garden tried to cheer him up. The squirrels set him back up when he was kicked down, and the birds cheerfully flapped about him. “Don’t worry, Tucket!” they chirped soothingly. Tucket really tried to be happy but it was very, very hard.

One day, a little girl ran through the garden and stopped in front of Tucket. He sighed and waited for the usual kicks, when suddenly he heard: “Perfect!” Soon he found himself blinking and spluttering under the garden hose. The girl was cleaning him! He felt heavy chunks of rust fall off and his spirits brightened.

“Oh! You already have a big hole at the bottom!” said the girl as she peered inside. “Even better!” Tucket could not believe what he had just heard. She wanted a bucket with a hole?

The girl took him to the veranda, filled him with rich soil and planted a tiny rose inside. “This is a baby rose,” she said to Tucket. “You must help me take care of her, OK?” Tucket was so happy. The girl really wanted him! She even asked him to take care of this small rose. Tucket nearly burst with joy. He straightened himself up proudly as the girl finished planting. She carefully placed Tucket in the best spot of the veranda. It was a cozy corner, protected from the wind and the rain. Tucket winked and smiled at his friends in the garden. “Look, I’m taking care of this little rose!” “We’re very happy for you, Tucket!” chattered the squirrels, and the birds chirped happily. Tucket took great care of the rose and was visited by the girl and his friends every day. He was now the happiest bucket in the world.


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The Whispering Palms

Mori was a little girl with big brown eyes. She lived with her parents in a beautiful coconut grove, next to a small blue lake. Every morning, she balanced a big empty basket on her head as she walked down to the lake. Her mother followed with the laundry and her father brought the big fishing net. Her mother washed the clothes on a stone next to the lake, while her father went fishing.

He dragged the net ashore, and they collected the fish in a big basket. Sometimes a turtle got stuck in the net, but Mori always hurried to the rescue. One sunny morning while fishing with her father, Mori said: “If we catch so many fish, one day there won’t be any left!” Her mother laughed and sent her off to school.

Under the shade of the trees, Mori’s mother fell into an uneasy sleep. She dreamt of a lake with no fish, while the wind in the palm leaves whispered: “The waters and the land have always taken care of your family, so you have to take care of them in return.” She awoke with tears in her eyes, for she didn’t know how to bring up Mori without selling enough fish. All afternoon she sat, weaving coconut mats and thinking about her dream.

That night Mori heard her parents whisper as the oil lamp burned deep into the night. The next morning, her father gave her a smaller basket. “How can we carry all the fish in this little basket?” Mori asked.

“We will only take as many fish as will fit inside this basket,” he replied. Mori was puzzled. When she came back from school, she was happy to find her mother making soap and oil from the coconuts. Mori swiftly climbed up a tree to get more coconuts, but her mother cautioned: “Don’t pluck them; we must only use what the tree gives us.” Her father added: “We have taken only fallen coconuts for these things. Look, we’ve even made this soap with a jasmine flower inside!”

From that day on, the family made brooms from the palm leaves and wove mats from coconut fiber. They took soap, oil and only a small number of fish to the market. When Mori grew older, she loved to carve tiny turtles out of coconut shells and always wore one around her neck.


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The Little Pianist

There was once a little boy named Azul. He loved to play the piano and dreamed of becoming a pianist some day. Every Sunday, Azul went to his piano class, and practiced every night at home, just before going to bed. Azul became good at it because he was so sincere. He would forget to brush his teeth but would never forget to practice playing the piano!

One day, Vicki, his piano teacher told him, “Azul, you will perform tomorrow in front of a large audience. You are getting to be quite the pianist! Your fingers move like a squirrel on the piano keys. But there is something missing.” “What is it?” Azul just had to know. He really… really wanted to be, not just a good pianist, but a great pianist. Vicki smiled. She whispered into Azul’s ear a piano teacher’s secret. “Play with your heart, not with your fingers.”

As always, Vicki pulled out her box of stickers. Azul held out his hand and Vicki stuck on it, a gorgeous sticker of a butterfly. “There, think of this butterfly when you want to play with your heart,” she said.

That day, when all the children played in the park, Azul just stared at his butterfly. He wondered, “I can play with my fingers because I can move them. I can touch the piano keys. How can I play with my heart? I can’t even see my heart.” For the first time, in a long time, Azul went to bed without playing the piano.

The night before his performance, he did not practice because he did not know how to play with his heart! When Azul woke up, he looked for the butterfly sticker. Oh no! The sticker was gone too! Now Azul was nervous. Really nervous… He tried playing the piano, but his fingers would just not move! However, that did not stop the clock from ticking. Soon it was performance time.

The piano was in the middle of a round stage, surrounded by rows of people. Azul walked onto the stage, sat on the piano bench and closed his eyes for a second. Remembering Vicki’s words, he thought of the butterfly. In the quiet of the auditorium, Azul heard the flutter of wings. A butterfly sat on his shoulder and started to hum a tune. His fingers began to move by themselves. His heart began to play the butterfly’s song.


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The Greatest Treasure

One day, Peter found a treasure map. “Hurray! I’m going to find this treasure and have some adventure!” he exclaimed. Peter set off. He walked a long way and finally reached a forest. There he met Lion. “You are strong and courageous,” said Peter to Lion. “Will you come with me on a treasure hunt?” Lion agreed and joined Peter. The forest was dense and dark. Peter was afraid, but with Lion by his side, he made it through.

When the two finally reached the mountain, they met Eagle. “You have excellent vision and can alert us to dangers,” said Peter to Eagle. “Will you come with us? We’re looking for a treasure!” Eagle agreed and joined Peter and Lion. The mountains were tall and craggy. Lion slipped, but Peter was swift enough to give him a hand and pull him up. Eagle, with his sharp vision, watched every step they took.

Soon, they reached the valley below where they met Sheep. “Will you join us in our search for a treasure?” Peter asked Sheep. “And keep us warm when it’s cold?” Sheep agreed and joined Peter, Lion and Eagle. A cold wind swept across the endless meadow. They all huddled against Sheep, who kept them warm and cozy.

The four finally reached the desert, where they met Camel. “You are called the ship of the desert,” said Peter to Camel. “Will you help us get across and join the treasure hunt too?” Camel agreed. Peter, Lion and Sheep mounted the camel and set off happily across the vast desert, with Eagle enjoying the spectacle from above. Camel began galloping and everybody cheered with excitement. Crossing the desert on Camel’s back was thrilling!

The five finally reached the ocean, where they met Turtle. “Can you help us cross the ocean?” Peter asked Turtle. “We are on a treasure hunt.” Turtle agreed and joined Peter, Lion, Eagle, Sheep and Camel. The rough waves almost drowned the party, but Turtle skillfully transported them across.

They met Owl on the other side. Owl spoke from his ancient wisdom: “Congratulations, you have found the treasure.” “Where is it?” they all exclaimed in surprise. “Together you have passed the forest, climbed the mountains, dared the valley, braved the desert, and crossed the ocean. You would never have done it without one another.” They all looked at each other and realized that Owl was right – they had found friendship! Indeed, they had found the greatest treasure ever!


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The Four Friends

Far from any town, there was a forest, in which all the animals and birds lived together peacefully. The forest was home to four inseparable friends: a deer, a tortoise, a crow and a mouse. Every evening they met to discuss the events of the day.

But one day, the deer became very frightened. “Hunters are laying traps everywhere. Is there anything we can do to escape?” “Yes there is,” the crow cried out. “As our friend the mouse knows!” The crow began telling everyone what he had seen. “Just the other day, I saw the most amazing thing. A flock of doves got trapped in a hunter’s net, their wings flapping wildly. Then suddenly, all together, the doves picked up the net in their beaks and flew into the sky. And where did they go? Straight to our friend the mouse! With his sharp teeth, he tore the net to pieces. Free at last, the doves flew away. They were very grateful to our friend.”

After the story ended, the deer went in search of water while the three friends started nibbling on the fruits, shrubs and leaves of the forest. They chatted late into the night, still waiting for the deer to return. But the deer was nowhere to be seen, and the friends began to worry.

At dawn, while the others called out to the deer, the crow flew in every direction looking for her. In a clearing, he spotted the deer with her foot caught in a net. “Don’t worry,” he told her calmly. “We’ll think of something.” The crow rushed back to his friends. The tortoise had an idea: “Mouse, hop quickly on the crow’s back.” And they flew off to rescue the deer.

Without wasting time, the mouse bit through the net. Just then, the anxious tortoise reached the spot. “Why did you come here? If the hunter returns, you’ll never escape!” the deer exclaimed. And the hunter did return! Hearing his footsteps, all of them ran away, but the tortoise was too slow. The hunter picked him up and tied him to a stick.

“Oh no! Because of me, poor Tortoise is in trouble,” said the deer. Suddenly, the deer leaped up and ran to the pond near the path. She lay down absolutely still, while the crow pecked at her. When the hunter dropped the tortoise and picked up the deer, the mouse quickly cut the cords and released the tortoise. While the tortoise slipped into the water, the deer darted off and the crow simply flew away. The hunter trembled with fear. He had never seen an animal come back to life. Thinking that the forest was haunted, he ran for his life. The four friends went home and were happy to be together again.


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The First Well

There once was a small kingdom around a lake. One very hot summer, it did not rain and the lake dried up. People grew anxious and went to the King. “It has not rained for so long. Our fields are barren!” said the farmers. “There are no fish to catch. How shall we earn a living?” asked the fishermen. “Save us from disaster, good King,” urged the women, as their children cried with thirst.

The King sent his four generals in all directions to look for water. The first general went east, towards the sunrise; the second went south, to the dust and heat; the third went west, where the sun sets; and the fourth followed the North Star.

They searched day and night, night and day; high and low they searched everywhere, but in vain. Three of the generals returned, empty-handed. But the general who had gone north was determined not to fail his King. At last, he reached a cold mountain village.

As he sat at the foot of the mountain, an old woman came by and sat next to him. The general pointed at the horizon and said, “I belong to a beautiful kingdom, where it has not rained for a whole year. Can you help me find water?”

The woman motioned the general to follow her up the mountain and into a cave. “We have no water in our country either,” she said. Then, pointing to the icicles in the cave, she continued: “We call this ice. Take some, and your kingdom will never go thirsty again.” The general broke off a huge piece, loaded it onto his horse-cart and rushed back home.

By the time he reached the court, the enormous icicle had melted into a small lump of ice. Nobody in the court had ever seen ice, so everybody gazed at it with wonder. “This must be a water-seed!” one of the ministers exclaimed suddenly. The King ordered the ‘water-seed’ to be sowed immediately.

While the farmers dug a hole, the lump dwindled in the sun. They swiftly placed the seed in the hole, but before they could cover it up, it had vanished. The farmers there grew confused and worried. They dug deeper and deeper into the earth, all night long, looking for the mysterious seed.

At the break of dawn, the King found the farmers fast asleep around a hole. Curious, he peeped in and cried out in amazement: “Wake up, my worthy men – the water-seed has sprouted! There’s water in the hole!” This is how the first well was created.


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The First Christmas

Around the month of December, children like to imagine what happened on the very first Christmas ever, even before Santa Claus. I know the story well, for I was watching it all from above – in the dark sky on the evening of December 24th, oh so many years ago. I am the Star of Bethlehem.

I was requested by angels to shine brighter than all the other stars that night, to tell the whole world that a very special child had been born to spread goodwill and peace. And this is the story of the first Christmas. All was quiet that night as I watched the Three Kings traveling slowly on camel back through desert lands. Just then, I beamed brightly, as the angels had told me to. The Kings noticed me in the East. They couldn’t resist my brilliance. Perhaps they had heard that a star like me was going to show the way to the son of God.

Traveling through the night, the Kings met shepherds watching over their flock. “We are following that incredibly beautiful star there in the East, to find the place where the son of God has just been born.” From there they all traveled together, watching me, the brightest star in the sky.

Finally, they arrived at a small town called Bethlehem, and saw that I was gleaming radiantly above the barnyard of an Inn. All was quiet and peaceful. Their caravan entered the barnyard to see the tender little baby lying in a simple manger fluffed with hay. Next to the baby were Mary and Joseph, his mother and father, and many farm animals.

The Kings offered the precious gifts they’d carried from afar for baby Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The shepherds kneeled on the ground to pray; they were grateful for the gift of love and the purity the baby brought.

Many people offered gifts after that – I suppose this is why on Christmas Day, people around the world enjoy offering gifts as a sign of love and hope. And they try their best to bring happiness to others, as Jesus did all his life. Now I’d like to wish you a holiday season that shines as brightly as the Star of Bethlehem!


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The Elves and the Shoemaker

Although Peter Schumaker worked hard and was kind to everyone in the village, he could never earn enough money making shoes. On this particularly cold and snowy day, all he had left in his workroom was enough leather to make one last pair of shoes.

That evening, Peter carefully cut up his precious leather and laid it aside for the morning, when he would sew them together. The sun rose the next morning and Peter was ready to start work, but to his great surprise an exquisitely crafted pair of shoes sat on his worktable. “What magic!” said Cecilia, his wife. They quickly put the shoes in the shop window, for the holiday shopping season had just begun.

As luck would have it, the shoes fitted the finicky Mrs. Sniggins perfectly, and she paid a generous sum for the fine fit. With the money, Peter went to buy more leather, enough for two more pairs. That evening, he once again set to work cutting his leather, and he left the pieces on the table when he went to bed. Hoping for a good design, he fell asleep dreaming of shoes. When he awoke early the next morning, he again found two finely crafted pairs of shoes before his eyes. Customers bought these up quickly, for they were masterpieces.

Now Peter could buy enough leather for four pairs of shoes. This magical business went on for some time, and Schumaker’s name became well-known for the finest shoes in town. These days, life was much better for Peter and Cecilia. One day Cecilia said, “I wonder who has been helping us so much?” Peter announced: “Tonight, we will hide in the workshop and see what goes on there!” And so they did.

At exactly midnight, two tiny elves tiptoed in and began to work, swiftly making the fine shoes. They were shabbily dressed and weren’t even wearing shoes themselves. Before daybreak, they had already dashed off, leaving several pairs of shoes ready for sale that day.

Peter and Cecilia were grateful to these little elves, and worried about them working so hard in such cold weather. So Peter set to work making two tiny pairs of shoes, and Cecilia stitched two warm sets of clothing for each of them. On Christmas Eve, instead of leather pieces, they set the little shoes and clothes out and hid themselves again. At midnight, the elves popped in and saw the new clothes. In a flash, they had them on their little bodies! They were so happy that they laughed and chuckled, and danced right out the window, never to be seen again.

Peter continued making shoes everyday, and he and Cecilia lived a very happy and contented life for many years. As did the elves!


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