I have come across some wonderful analogies lately that deal with the different stages of life and our response to that stage. Years ago I heard a wonderful story about a courageous caterpillar who was climbing a great cherry tree. It was late winter. This caterpillar was very hungry and didn’t move very fast, but he started the climb anyway. As he moved slowly up the tree a squirrel popped his head out of a hole in the tree and asked, “Where are you going?” The little caterpillar stopped and rested for a moment and replied, “To the cherries at the top of this big tree.” The squirrel laughed and said, it isn’t quite spring yet, there are no cherries at the top of the tree.” The little caterpillar sighed as he started his slow climb again and said, “There will be by the time I get there.” I love this story for so many reasons. One of the qualities that I greatly admire in many of my past students was their tenacity. Against all odds they learned to believe in themselves, and not give up. I hope that is what I gave them as their teacher, or that I was at least able to cultivate that in them, so they could use it the rest of their lives.
One of my heroes is Michael Michalko, the author of several great books including Creative Thinkering. He tells a wonderful story that I believe all teachers should hear and think about when they are evaluating their students.
As the story goes when he was ten years old he was hiking with his grandfather when his grandfather stopped and pointed at a caterpillar.
“Look at this. What do you see?”
“A caterpillar.” he replied.
“Someday this will become a beautiful butterfly. Look at it carefully and tell me what you see that proves this will be so.”
Michalko studied the caterpillar carefully and finally said, “There is nothing in the caterpillar that tells me it’s going to be a butterfly.”
“Exactly! his grandfather said. “And there is nothing in you on the outside that shows others what you will become. Remember the caterpillar when people tell you why you can’t do something or become something. They can’t see into your heart or mind, only you know what you are capable of becoming.”
I would love to hear your stories.