An African Parable

Submitted by Chris Mills on December 17, 2013 - 7:28am
Just a short blog, this time

Once, long ago in the African jungle, a terrible forest fire broke out. It raged through the jungle, and all of the animals fled in terror before it. They hopped, ran, flew, crawled and slithered until they reached the open plain. Then they stood at the forest edge, staring back into the flames in horror as their homes were consumed.

But then one of the animals noticed a hummingbird that flew toward the flames, disappeared, and emerged again a short time later. The hummingbird flew toward a nearby creek and scooped up a beakful of water, little more than a few drops. Then it flew back toward the fire, dropped its load of water onto the flames and returned to the creek once more.


The animals watched in amazement, and one said to the hummingbird, “Why are you doing that? It’s ridiculous. Those tiny drops of water won’t make any difference. You are too small, you won’t stop the fire! What do you think you are doing?”

The hummingbird replied, “I am doing what I can.”

Happy holidays.


Thanks for sharing, Chris!

This reminds me of the starfish story- do you know it? A man is walking by the beach and watches a little girl walks along and is throwing the dried-up starfish back into the ocean, one at a time. He asks, "what are you doing? Can't you see there are thousands of starfish? You can't possible save them all." She responded, "You're right. By I can help this one," and she threw one back into the ocean.

The stories are similar and can inspire us to take action and do something towards the greater good, despire the circumstances.


Yeah, I really like stories like that. I'd heard the starfish story before, but I'd forgotten about it, so thanx for the reminder.

I suppose some folks might think that parables like these are a bit trite or schmaltzy, but really, when you think about it, it's through evocative tales like this one that knowledge, wisdom, and values were passed down through the generations - long before there was print - and I think they still have a resonance for that reason. We still like to hear stories and songs, and they still have a whole lot more staying power than if someone waggles their finger at you and says, "Do what you can!" That'll last for about eight seconds; but that African parable, and many others like it, have stayed with me for years. Cool, huh?



I love parables. Jesus and other faith/cultural traditions taught and spoke in parables- there is a reason for this. These tales resonate in a deep way; in a way that people remember.