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The Little Sunflower
Once upon a time, there lived a little sunflower. The sunflower lived in a peaceful meadow that sat across from a homely cottage deep in the forest. She didn’t mind it so much, even if it was a tad lonely; “there’s plenty of sun for little old me” she said to herself. More than anything else in the world, the little sunflower loved the sun. She lived for the second it would soar over the edge of the mountains, and fill the valley with warmth.
She also loved watching the man who lived in the cottage open his shutters each morning. Sometimes he would stand there a while, like he wanted to soak up the sun and carry it inside him for a while. She felt if she had been born human, she and the old man could have been very good friends.
One day, the old man did something very strange. He took a shiny triangle and cut holes in the earth in front of his home. “Now why would he do that?” the sunflower asked herself, very confused by this turn of events. The old man may have been an odd hermit-not one who much liked company, instead preferring the stillness of the woods-but he was gentle and sweet in his demeanor. She could not, for the leaves on her stem, decipher what he was thinking.
Finally with a wheeze, he brought out a small burlap pouch. Carefully, he poured out a handful of tiny green dots and lovingly tucked them into the soil.
“These seeds will make wonderful roses,” he said as he shut the cottage door behind him.
“Seeds,” the sunflower said to herself, “rose seeds.” Staring in curious fascination at the dirt, she waited for them to turn into roses.
Two winters passed, and the sunflower had almost lost hope that the little seeds would ever grow into roses; but one early spring morning, she saw something. A little green sprout was sticking up out of the dirt. “So THAT is a rose!” she marveled to herself. She gazed in wonder at the little thing. A little sunshine, dirt, and water was all it took to breathe life into a dot. It was extraordinary.
Every day the old man watered and tended to the rose, and every day the rose grew taller, stronger, and more beautiful. It made the sunflower feel strange. She looked down at her ragged leaves and stem and felt somehow… inadequate. Who would tend so lovingly to a weed? She had been stupid to think she and the old man could be friends. She would always be alone. Sadness weighed down the little sunflower, and her head drooped down despairingly towards the ground.
One morning, an insistent buzzing woke the sunflower. A bumble bee’s wings had been drenched by the morning dew, and seeking refuge the bee had landed on one of her petals.
“Buzz off, pest. This is a private plant.”
The battered bee’s eyes, already flooded with tears from its ordeal, became swollen with the effort to keep the torrents at bay. The sunflower immediately felt guilt start to munch its way like a savage caterpillar through her innards.
“I’m sorry, little bee. Seems I’ve become as ugly inside as I am on the outside,” she whispered forlornly.
The bee looked confused. “What do you mean ugly? You are one of the prettiest flowers I’ve ever seen.”
“No, no. I’m not a flower. I’m a weed.”
The bee was starting to look very distressed, as if using this amount of brain power was causing it physical pain.
“See that gorgeous rose across the meadow? THAT is a flower. I am a weed. I come from a patch of weeds, you see. I don’t know why you landed here, wouldn’t you like resting on real flower better?” asked the sunflower, trying her best to make the bumble bee understand how silly it was to choose her, of all things.
The bee glanced at the rose with disdain; “with those thorns? One slight miscalculation and instead of landing on a soft bed of petals, I could be skewered! No thank you! I’ll just stay right here, if you don’t mind. Weed or not, I think you’re lovely.”
The sunflower was shocked. She was lovely? “How so?”
The bumble bee paused for a moment before he said, “Every plant in the forest is unique, each ones beauty incomparable. Therefore it stands to say that every flower is equally beautiful, just in a different way. When I see you, little sunflower, I see a perfect drop of sunshine. That is why I believe you are lovely.”
After that, the bee flew away; but not before promising to come back soon. The little sunflower smiled brightly, happiness pouring from her roots. She was no longer an ugly weed like she had believed, and now she had made a friend. Remembering the old man with a little melancholy, she turned to face him. He was gazing out the window dreamily when the sunflower caught his eye. He smiled as he said to no one in particular, “What a beautiful flower.”
The sunflower was never lonely or sad again. She knew that what made a thing beautiful was not its appearance, but its soul. The light it carries inside itself, and in the way it needs no one’s permission to shine. Like the sun: constant and warm. If the bumble bee had seen even a shred of that brilliance inside her, then maybe she was lovely after all.