There was once a mouse who lived in a cosy hole hidden under the roots of a knarled old oak tree. Although the mouse had no family, he was never lonely as he had made friends with a group of sparrows who had taken up residence among the spreading branches of the oak tree.
Each day, the mouse admired the way the adult sparrows flew gracefully from the tree to a nearby bush, and then to the meadow beyond, searching out the choicest insects with which to feed their growing offspring.
“I wish I could fly,” said the mouse one evening, as the female bird paused on the tree root directly above the mouse’s home.
Mrs Sparrow lifted her wings and spread them as far as she could reach. “It’s easy,” she said. “Just flap your wings, and away you go.”
So the little mouse stood on a rock, and waved and flapped until his tiny paws ached, but it was no good.
“I’d love to do that,” said the mouse the next day, as Father Sparrow looped-the-loop before coming to exchange social pleasantries with the mouse.
“Oh, I’m sure you will soon,” said Mr Sparrow. “You just need to believe that you can do it.”
The mouse clenched his paws and shut his eyes tight, and tried to imagine himself swooping and soaring through the air. In his mind’s eye, he could see it quite clearly…but although he flapped his paws for a full hour, nothing happened.
“Maybe you need to wait for the right time,” said Mrs Sparrow the next night, observing the disappointment in the mouse’s eyes. “After all, our little ones won’t be ready to leave the nest for another week.”
But two weeks later, when the younger sparrows were turning their mother’s feathers grey with their daredevil antics, the mouse’s feet were still firmly on the floor.
Over the next month, the mouse tried everything he could think of:
- He developed huge (for a mouse) muscles in his fore-paws from all his flapping.
- He believed with all his might that one day it would happen.
- He confessed to the sparrows that he had once eaten a berry they had brought back and set to one side for their young ones. (The sparrows were more than happy to forgive him.)
- He even tried taking a literal step of faith one evening by launching himself off the rock. Fortunately, he fell only a few inches and the rock was surrounded by soft, spongy moss; but even so, the mouse was battered and bruised by the whole experience.
“I’m such a failure,” he sobbed.
The older mouse smiled, and patted him – with great care – on his shoulder.
“But mice were never meant to fly,” he said. “Accept who you are, and enjoy being you.”