Kindness is Key

May 19, 2010
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Sampson was a smaller-than-average, pesky squirrel. Unlike most squirrels, he had little care for anyone other than himself and would go to great lengths to get what he desired. Survival during the winter is hard for any squirrel, but especially for one as small as Sampson. With his size, he was limited to searching for much smaller nuts than other squirrels in harder-to-access locations. Finding an adequate store to last him through the winter was always a particularly difficult task for him.
One winter was extremely bad. The snow never stopped falling for more than a couple days and Sampson was running low on his store of nuts. He had only been able to gather a meager supply of food the past fall and summer due to a rising population of squirrels in the area. After only two months of winter Sampson saw his nut pile was quickly running out. If he was planning on enjoying another care-free spring he would need more food. He clambered out of his hole and down the tall pine and set off in search of a solution.
The only squirrel that had ever tolerated Sampson’s presence long enough to exchange a few words with him was named Skippy. Skippy was a humble, little squirrel with a nice mate and three, young children that had only hatched the previous spring. When Sampson came calling at his tree Skippy knew what he must be there for.
“Skippy m’boy! Could I ask you something?” Sampson hollered, ready with a list of lines he could use to sound friendlier.
“Ask away!”
“Well, as you might have noticed this winter is quite disastrous and my store of nuts is running awfully thin!”
“I’m sorry to hear that Sampson. I’ll be right back. Here, take this acorn,” Skippy called down after a few moments. “I would give more but I have a family to feed!”
“This is it?” Samson murmured under his breath. “Well, I’ll be on my way.” He hurriedly stuffed the acorn in his mouth and moved on. Sampson tried at every tree and squirrel within half a mile of his pine, greedy for more, but many squirrels wouldn’t even acknowledge his presence. He returned home only slightly satisfied and wondering whether he could continue to mooch all winter.
The days passed and the pile of nuts was reduced to an amount that could be counted on Sampson’s two paws. During a good winter, with a large store of nuts, he could eat as many as two a day, but now he was getting by with one every week. After nibbling on his small portion of nut every day he would leave the warmth of his tree and desperately search for any dropped or forgotten nuts lying on the ground. He never found a single one. Sampson’s searches continued despite how faint he was and the lack of hope he now felt. With only two nuts left and weeks of winter still to come, he went out on what he decided was to be his final search. If he found nothing today he would go home and feast on his final stores before giving up. Right when Sampson hit the ground he noticed a sudden movement. He swung his head round and spotted another squirrel creeping towards a large pine tree. Sampson peered towards the top of the tree and located a clump of pinecones, which were quite rare this time of year. There was no doubt in his mind that this other squirrel was after those.
Without hesitation, Sampson darted toward the tree and began scaling it with as much speed as he could muster. The other squirrel also jumped for the tree but was so startled by Sampson’s sprint it took him a moment to gather himself, in which time Sampson had climbed ten feet. This pine, no more than 60 feet tall, would have been an easy climb for Sampson in the summer, but with his lack of food he was struggling. The other squirrel (who Sampson now recognized as Seymour, a burly squirrel who lived alone a few trees over from Sampson) was obviously not worse off than Sampson and was rapidly gaining ground on him. Sampson was running faster than if his life had depended on it, but still could not pull away from Seymour. He felt a strong tug on his tail and was yanked downwards. With a great leap, Seymour passed Sampson and swiped the cones right out of his grasp. Panting and without any desire to fight this strong squirrel for the cones, Sampson laid down upon a nearby branch. He could hear nothing over his heavy breathing and guessed that by now Seymour was halfway home. He laid down there and planned on dying there, but was startled by a soft cough. Sampson slowly turned in the direction of the cough and found Seymour watching him with interest. He had apparently started to return home, only to realize he couldn’t leave Sampson to die in the tree. Seymour returned to him with the cones in his teeth, ready to share his prize. Sampson understood why Seymour had come back and at that moment made a vow that he would be a kinder, friendlier, and more prepared squirrel.

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