Joe grew up in a large family. He was the smallest and the laziest of the bunch, or at least that was how his family perceived him. All of his relatives were ambitious, industrious go-getters but Joe was different. He loved to sit, think and solve problems. Often, he would lay awake at night wondering why grass was green and not orange, why mosquitoes could fly and what made it possible for his dad to easily carry something twenty-five times his own weight.
Henceforth his late night thinking would cause him to over sleep. There were many many days when he would wake up to find that he was the only one still at home.
For an ant, this laziness was a problem. “Ants have a reputation to uphold!” His father would shout at him. “While you have been wasting the day away sleeping, your brothers and sisters have stacked wood, stockpiled food for a month and finished their chores and yours. You are a poor excuse for an ant!”
Joe often felt like he’d been mistakenly born into the wrong family. He was so different from everyone else. When he was all alone in his room he couldn’t help but wonder if he was an experiment gone completely haywire.
Joe tried all kinds of things to help him become like everyone else. He lifted weights, did push-ups and while everyone else was sleeping he would run around the ant house multiple times to build up his stamina. He even got his friend Sammy the cricket to be his alarm clock.
Knowing that he had to get up early in the morning, Joe tried to fall asleep quickly but he couldn’t stop the thoughts that were running around in his head. And before he knew it, Sammy had started his chirping! Joe tried to open his eyes but it was as if they were glued shut. He just couldn’t seem to wake up so he rolled over, told Sammy to stop (in not so very nice words) and went back to sleep.
Eventually he awoke to find multiple pairs of eyes glaring down on him; he could see the disappointment reflected in their eyes. But rather than feeling motivated to get up and contribute to the family projects, he pulled the covers over his head and pretended that he didn’t exist. He wished he had never been born. Was he God’s great cosmic joke?
One day, Joe woke up to hear the whole family talking about a picnic next door. They were going to need everyone’s help if they were going to be able to get enough food to store up for the winter.
Joe listened to their planning and determined that he was not going to let them down. He shed his troubles like an old coat; he wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of helping his family today.
One by one the ants marched out their door to the picnic. This was going to be harder than they thought. There were unforeseen obstacles at every turn – hundreds of feet, animals and even other ant colonies waiting to get in on the action.
Joe glimpsed a large half eaten hotdog that had fallen and was lying on the outskirts of the chaos. He knew that if they made any sudden moves towards the hotdog that the other ants would see where they were going and would try to get it for themselves.
Joe sidled up to his father and said, “Dad, do you see that hotdog over there? That would feed all of us for at least a couple of months.”
Joe’s father immediately wanted to send everyone after the hot dog.
Joe quietly explained, “Dad if you send everyone over there than all the other ants will see us and try to get there first. Why don’t you send a group of ants to climb up the picnic table so that the other ants will follow them? Meanwhile another group can quietly go over and retrieve the hotdog and carry it home.”
His father was quiet as he considered this plan. Joe felt like his heart was in his throat as he waited anxiously to hear what his father thought. Suddenly a grin broke out on his father’s face and he exclaimed, “Brilliant!”
Perhaps being different wasn’t wrong after all. For the first time Joe began to consider that maybe, just maybe he wasn’t a cosmic joke after all.
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