Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Little Red Hen Revisited



Once upon a time, The Little Red Hen sat back from her table in satisfaction. The dog and the cat and the duck and the goose and the turkey and even the fox—all of her friends had enjoyed a wonderful time of sharing bread around that very table.

Of course, even in her new-found sense of charity, The Little Red Hen remembered that she had found the seed, planted and watered and harvested the grain, and ground and mixed and kneaded and baked…and out of what others left lying in the dirt of the barnyard, and some would have eaten right away and never planted, there had been enough bread for all of them. For all the hard work she had done herself, it was still a joy for her to watch her friends enjoy the results of all her hard work. And, she was sure, now that her friends had all eaten her delicious bread, they would be more than glad to help her plant and water and harvest and grind and mix and knead and bake the bread next time.

And yet, when the next planting season came, so did the excuses—from the dog and the cat and the duck and the goose and the turkey and even the fox—they all had other plans. But even though they did not come to plant and to water and to harvest and to grind and to mix and to knead and to bake…they still came when they smelled the fresh, hot bread ready to come out of the oven.

As the third season approached, The Little Red Hen felt very sad. She liked her bread. And she liked her friends: the dog and the cat and the duck and the goose and the turkey and even the fox. But she did not feel like planting and watering and harvesting and grinding and mixing and kneading and baking quite so much bread this year. When her friends still came to wait for her to bring the bread out of the oven, she told them: she had only made enough for her. If they wanted bread next year, then they should probably find and plant and water and harvest and grind and mix and knead and bake their own bread.

Her friends went away without bread that day. But before long, they came to her again and decided they should talk about how they could all work together in the next season. The Little Red Hen said that she would be glad for the help and would let them know when she would be ready to plant her seed. But her friends said they thought there must be easier ways to get bread than by planting and watering and harvesting and grinding and mixing and kneading and baking, even if The Little Red Hen gave them her seed. They said they should all decide together how to get the next season’s bread. So, The Little Red Hen invited them into the kitchen where they had all enjoyed the bread not long before.

No, they said. We will not come into your kitchen. It is hard enough for us that you control the bread. If we meet at your table, then we will just end up doing whatever you say we need to do to get bread. So, The Little Red Hen asked where they would like to meet. As each made their suggestions, it became clear that none of them had built a table, or a house in which to put the table, in addition to never having baked any bread to put on any table in any house. The Little Red Hen said that she would be glad to show them how to build a table. But that meant, they said, that it would be the kind of table The Little Red Hen wanted it to be. They would build their own table. And put it in their own house. And there, in their house, on their table, they would eat their bread.

But they never did. And The Little Red Hen planted and watered and harvested and ground and mixed and kneaded and baked and ate her own bread…all by herself. And The Little Red Hen was very, very sad. But in the last few seasons of her life, even when she offered to share the bread she had made, her friends said they would rather pick grain in the barnyard than come to the table of the one who had to have control of the bread. And, in time, The Little Red Hen was okay with that.

the end

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