The benefits of cooperation

Sometimes it can be lonely, if you are a mouse who lives in a hole in a wall in the corner of a house all by yourself. Maybe it can be lonely even if others live in the house with you.

There were times Fred Mouse enjoyed being alone, especially when he had a plateful of toasted cheese sandwiches to eat all by himself. But sometimes Fred Mouse thought he might like to have a friend with whom he could play. Deep in these thoughts one day, he wandered out of his house and down the road to the bay, where he sat alone at the end of the jetty looking at the rippling water. He hadn't been there long before Sleek-Fin popped his dolphin head out of the water, rolled on his side, and looked at Fred with one big, glassy eye. "Hi, Fred," he said with a smile on his face. "What are you doing sitting on the jetty?"

"I was just wondering how to find some friends to play with," replied Fred.

"You can always play with me," said Sleek-Fin.

"How?" asked Fred. "We are so different. You are a dolphin and I am a mouse. You live in the water and I live on the land."

"Oh," said Sleek-Fin, seeming a little sad at first. Then, brightening up, he added, "Maybe there is a way we could make it work. If you sat on my back near my fin I could take you for a ride without ducking under water and getting you wet . . . well, without getting you too wet . . . maybe." As Fred laughed and enjoyed his ride on Sleek-Fin's back, he thought this was one fun way to make friends—doing something that both of you can enjoy together.

Almost as ifreading his mind, Sleek-Fin said, "I've been thinking about it, too. You know, there are a couple of things that you need to avoid ifyou want to make friends. You see Leaper out there?" he asked, pointing with his nose out toward the sea. Fred had already seen Leaper riding the waves, standing up almost vertically on his tail as he finned his way down. He watched as Leaper caught the next wave and did a backward somersault over the top of it. Sleek-Fin said, "It doesn't help to show off. Leaper doesn't have many friends because he thinks he is so much better than everyone else. But then, it doesn't help to be too shy either. There's another dolphin in our pod, Shy-Swimmer, who you won't see out there showing off like Leaper. He always swims at the back and waits for others to approach him, and he doesn't have many friends, either."

Fred began to wonder: If there were things you needed to avoid, what could you do to build more friendships? He remembered that when Sleek-Fin had come up to him earlier at the jetty, smiled, looked him in the eye, and asked about how he was feeling, it had felt good. Maybe it helps to be interested in the other person, thought Fred, to ask how they are feeling and thinking. When Sleek-Fin did, Fred had felt special. So what could Fred do to help Sleek-Fin feel special, too?

He couldn't invite him to visit. There was no way a dolphin could make it across land to Fred's home, let alone squeeze through the tiny little hole in the wall in the corner of the house, was there? IfSleek-Fin could have done that, Fred thought that might have shown Sleek-Fin he really liked him. Maybe Fred could help Sleek-Fin feel special by telling him things that Fred liked about him.

"It was nice that you took an interest in me when I was sitting by myself on the jetty," said Fred.

"That's fine," said Sleek-Fin. "What are friends for? Friends are the people who are willing to stand by you at times when you are happy and joyful as well as the times when you feel sad or lonely."

"Not only that," said Fred, "you are very thoughtful and considerate. When we were out swimming you took so much care not to get me wet. You never forgot I was on your back and never dived under the water."

"Thanks," said Sleek-Fin, accepting Fred's compliment.

Fred was taken by surprise. He had been taught to be modest, and he might have denied it if someone had given him a compliment, saying something like, "I'm not really," or "Obviously, you don't know me well." Yet he felt good when Sleek-Fin accepted his compliment and it appeared that Sleek-Fin felt good, too.

Just then Fred noticed something. "Did you know you have a bit of seaweed stuck in your blowhole?" asked Fred. He wondered why he hadn't seen it while they had been out swimming.

"Yes," replied Sleek-fin, "I have been trying to get rid of it for days. I have blown and I have coughed but that didn't shift it, and without any arms I haven't been able to reach up and pick it out."

"Let me help," said Fred. So, as Sleek-Fin blew, Fred used his tiny little paws to pull the seaweed out of Sleek-Fin's blowhole.

"You were right earlier when you said we were different," commented Sleek-Fin. "I can swim and you can't, but I can take you for a ride if we are friends."

"And I can use my paws to clear seaweed from your blowhole if we are friends," added Fred.

After that, Fred always knew that when he was sitting alone in his house and wanted company all he had to do was take a walk down to the jetty on the bay. It wouldn't be long before his friend would turn up, looking up at him caringly, smiling gently, and talking about the things they cared about in each other. They were very different, but it didn't matter so much what the differences were so long as they could share the things they had in common. A dolphin and a mouse!

"A strange relationship," said Sleek-Fin.

"And a great friendship," added Fred.

0 0

Post a comment