Was one day in late November when I came to the kindergarten where I work as a volunteer. I dropped my things in the wardrobe and wanted to join children in a board game play. A girl from the group noticed me and my backpack that I have put down.
“Oh, such a nice backpack, what is it written on the top?” she asked.
“Oh, this? It’s written: solidarity will win,” I answered.
“What is solidarity?”
For the second I struggled to give high definition answer. I knew she would have probably not understood it. I was thinking of how to explain to her something complicated. I was thinking for some hours and wrote down a short fable. When lunch was over, I called her and invited her: “Come with me to the book corner. I will tell you the story about a desert mouse and a lion.”
We sat down on the carpet and I have begun: “Was a winter morning in Africa. Sun was shining and Savannah was dancing in the breeze. Far away, you could notice sparkling of the water. From the small hole in the ground, a small, tiny Mouse came in and stretched. From the distance, she could hear excited voices talking about something.”
“What was it?” asked the girl.
“The king of all African animals, Lion had announced that foreign birds are waiting in the front of their Savannah home: blue birds from cold Europe want to enter to survive the winter. ‘What? We are not going to allow that!’ complained animals. ‘There are already too many of us, we don’t have enough food and space for all. We don’t know them, they are strangers and probably have diseases.’ After that, Lion decided to close Savannah’s door for birds and not allow them to come in. If some of them would dare to fly trough, leopards would catch them and kill.”
“But the Mouse didn’t understand the opinion of rest of her African friends. ‘Would it be so bad to offer them place to stay?’ she asked the Lion. ‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘I don’t know them, they don’t belong here and must return back.’”
“Mouse desperately went back to her hole. Secretly, she was also scared of these big blue European foreigners. At the same time, she felt strong empathy with their position. How would she feel in their place? She knew they deserve a home for the winter, like all of the living beings. What can she do?”
“The Mouse was thinking whole night, and finally came to the solution. She, herself will go to the desert to visit birds. From their side, it may be easier to convince Lion and other African animals to let them enter the Savannah. She left her hole in the early morning and traveled for three days when she spotted the birds. Birds looked at her untrustworthy but eventually, they calmed down and offered her little food and water they had. In the evening when the sun went down the Mouse started to get comfortable with them and started to ask them about their lives. Birds told her a lot about themselves, their home and culture. All of them were unique but at the end sounded so familiar, it seemed, she knew them for years. Mouse saw their perspective. She sensed their innocence and will to survive the winter.”
“Next day Mouse traveled back to Savannah. She called all African animals to join her by the water. She was so little and scared but today her voice was determined, loud and strong: ‘I traveled to the desert and I met the birds. I learned a lot from them and I also listened to their stories. Some of them I would love to share with you because they cannot do it by themselves.’ African animals looked at her with disgrace but eventually, they stayed and listened quietly.
Mouse also shared a poem she heard from birds:
‘Sun is sinking down the African sky
And we wait for you, our friend
To tell you a song about our nation
You ask yourself why
And we tell you, our friend
All we ask is your will for conversation
Hungry and thirsty, we used to cry
But now our friend
We just wait for you to understand our situation’
Soon after that, something awakened their interest, compassion. Now, they couldn’t leave, they had emotions for before unknown birds! When she finished, all remained quiet. Far away, some chirping could be heard. Lion left first without a goodbye. All animals followed him. Instead the Mouse. She was left alone, watching dull and weak moon reflecting in the water.”
“Next morning she woke up and came from the hole. Where is everybody? Suddenly, a big shadow rose above her. Was that the storm coming? Oh no! That were birds flying all around the sky! What a magical and graceful moment! Mouse’s heart was singing. But how, why, how is that even possible?”
“From the background Lion approached the Mouse: ‘When I was drinking today, I looked in the water. And in reflection, I didn’t see myself but birds. I realized that I could be them and they could be me. I finally got it; we can all be in a bad position sometimes and it is nice if somebody understands us. Mouse, I have to say, you really are small and sometimes fearful. But you have a big heart and courage. You care, and you managed to reach that we care too. You put yourself in the role of a storyteller and told us the story instead of them that could not. Stories touched me. I can’t look away anymore. I feel closer to them now. Like I know them from forever. I decided to open the door of Savannah. I think it is big enough for everybody.’”
Mouse smiled, thanked him and said: Sometimes we just have to be brave enough to share the story and be prepared to listen.”
Lion agreed: “Yes, sometimes a good story can do more good than can do help, water, and food. It connects us and brings the feeling we are all in this together. And that is the time we awaken the heart. And that one awakens the solidarity.”
“Could birds live in Africa forever?” asked the girl.
“Yes, but they just stayed until the end of the winter and then they returned home because they missed their nests. They returned every winter and African animals expected them with excitement of hearing new interesting stories from Europe.”