“Home at last,” said city Squirrel. He had been in the open lands to the south. He had wanted to see where oranges came from. The new place was terrifying at first. He had always thought that being from the city made him tougher and smarter than country animals.

He remembered telling the first mouse he met, “Where I come from you have to be on your toes. Never look anyone in the eye or act friendly or you’ll be done in.”

The southern animals were so familiar with Squirrel. They touched too much – patted backs, hugged strangers. They pried into one’s affairs, forever asking how things were going and what you had for breakfast. Having been amid strangers, dodging thieves and con artists, Squirrel was wary of this “friendliness.”

A possum came by with a loaf of bread as a gift. Squirrel nearly slammed the door in his face. “What do you want,” he demanded. “Are you trying to sell me something? Do you own a bakery? Is this one of those free samples to lure me in?”

The possum laughed, “Man you sure are a jumpy one. You just need to learn to relax and trust folks. Ain’t nobody here out to get you. You think you so important that we all spend our days and nights worrying up new ways to do y’all in?”

“Fella, this might come as a surprise, but we got better things to do,” possum said. “We gotta gather the food and tie down before tornado season comes on strong.”

Tornado season? Squirrel panicked. Natural disaster meant looters and anarchy. He would have to arm himself. He built traps and gathered sharp stones for defense, while the others stored food and water.

When the storms came it was more terrible than anything he could have imagined. Thunder shook the earth and the palm trees bent under the force of the beating wind. Anything that was not tied down was instantly swept away by wind or water.

Alone and terrified Squirrel had run from his burrow and been snared in his own traps. His pitiful thrashing only made the tangle worse and by dawn he lay prone in the mud.

Possum and a band of geckos freed him from the lines and tended his wounds. He was more exhausted than hurt. After a few hours rest, he sat up and watched as the animals recovered from the disaster. Most of their homes were gone.

Despite this new hardship, there was a kind of calm after the storm. There was no weeping. Instead, they were sitting, sipping palm wine and swapping stories.

Squirrel could hardly believe his ears. “Have you all gone mad,” he shrieked. “That was the most terrifying ordeal of my life! How can you sit here so calmly?”

“City folks,” chirped the tree frog. “Spend all their time running scared without knowing what danger they’re really in.”

“What’s that supposed to mean,” asked squirrel.

The little frog answered, “It means that there’s safety in numbers. We all look out for each other here because we spend so many nights like this one here. Truth is, dangerous as it is, at least we’re never alone.”

“I’ve never been alone,” Squirrel said irritably. “I live with millions of people and animals all around me every day in the big city.”

Possum shook his head. “Now see son, you just said it yourself. You live with them all around. You don’t see them as beings so much as obstacles to be avoided. All those people and things and animals up there in the city are like the walls in a maze that you run through every day. You try not to look at or touch the walls as you go by, ’cause you’re afraid they’ll close in on you and do you a mischief.”

“But they will,” insisted Squirrel. “You have to be tough to survive…” He trailed off as he looked around the shelter at all the weather-torn inhabitants. They had been tough, he realized. He had been running blindly through a maze of his own making.

Still, he clung to his beliefs. “It can’t be that simple,” he said. “You can’t go into the city acting like some smarty country critter and not be eaten alive.”

Possum smiled. “Son, I have been to the city plenty of times. What I saw there were a lot of fellers like you, rushing and snarling. I saw one feller walk right over another who was lying in a gutter sick as death. He just stepped right over him like he was trash.”

“I stopped that feller and I told him to mind his ways. I told him that there was a being he was scuttling over,” he said. “Do I look le? No sir. I got that feller to help me show that poor creature a kindness.”

Possum gave Squirrel a hard look. “Know what made him listen to me?” Squirrel didn’t answer. “He listened to me because he stopped seeing me as a all and saw what I was. I made him stop. Made him look and see.”

Squirrel took a good look at possum. “It’s in the eyes isn’t it,” he said. “You see the soul by looking in the eyes.”

“That’s the boy,” said possum. “Thing is, you can’t see it if you never look.”

So Squirrel had come back home to take a look for himself, to see his fellows through new eyes. He would make it his business to help others see what he saw. He would write and teach and speak of what he had learned.

First, they would see it through his eyes so that someday they could see it through their own.

By Lisa Suhay

Meditation: Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily. – Isaiah 28:16

You will succeed in Jesus Name!

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