There was a tiny snail (or so he felt inside), who climbed along the garden wall in silence every day. Without fail there came along an angry boy each day, bitter and irate for reasons the snail could only guess. Each day the boy was just the same: he would pluck the tiny snail from the wall and toss him to the ground with a laugh and a sneer. And each morning for a long time, the snail slowly crawled back up the wall once more in hopes that when the new day rose he would reach the sunlight that only reached the highest parts of that wall.
As time wore on the little snail grew more weary as the frustration of never quite reaching the light of day began to weigh upon him. Every day the angry boy would return, his tongue all aflame with bitter words, and the little snail would find himself hurled once again to the ground so far below, where he would land with a painful thud. But one day, something changed in the world and the little snail could no longer bring himself to try.
When the angry boy returned to taunt the little snail, his face contorted in a strange fury when he saw that the snail had not begun to crawl up the wall again. Instead he had stayed just where the boy had thrown him down the day before. The angry boy cursed and spat, and very nearly crushed the little snail with his gigantic shoe, but for some unknown reason he hesitated and put his foot back on the ground. “You’re not even worth it” said the angry boy, and with a terrifying face he spat upon the little snail where he lay.
The little snail did not move, but stared ever up that wall at the sunlight so high above. He longed to feel its warmth upon his shell, but his heart sank and he said to himself, “I can never reach it, for I am not able to overcome the obstacles which beset me”. And for several days he remained exactly where he lay, his heart growing ever more sorrowful as each day slipped away into another night. For a few days the angry boy would come again and curse the little snail, but soon he seemed to lose interest and did not return for a long time.
When he became hungry the little snail would slink across the dirt and soil to eat sadly from the lowest leaves on the plants, even though they were caked in filth and did not taste as good as his favorite leaves just a little higher. Sometimes he would look mournfully up at those leaves, but he did not try to reach them any longer; “I can never reach them” he said, “for I am not able to reach so very far”. And though the little snail survived each day, his heart was filled with sadness.
But one day the world changed yet again, and when the little snail awoke he saw a frilly and bright yellow butterfly smiling down at him, perched upon those higher leaves which were his favorites to eat. “Why, hello there, you great big snail! You seem a sturdy fellow!” But the little snail was confused and turned his head from side to side, then rotated completely around in search of someone he apparently couldn’t see. “Who are you talking to?” he asked with his eyebrows raised, “for I am but a little snail, small and frail against the world”.
And the little butterfly, all cozy on her high perch, smiled with gentle eyes and said “Why, I don’t know what you’re talking about, for you must be one of the biggest snails I’ve ever seen! Surely there must be a matching strength inside that hearty shell you carry on your back!” But the little snail shook his head sadly and looked up to the sunlight on the high wall and said “If that were so, I could have reached that warm glow long ago, and carried with me a feast of the leaves on which you now rest! Oh, but to be such a creature as you!”
At first neither spoke but merely considered one another awhile, but finally the pretty butterfly broke the thick silence between them. “Tell me, sweet snail, why do you consider yourself so? For my eyes read another story besides what your words have said; surely more truth must lie beneath.” The little snail remained silent awhile before a few words tumbled out: “why, isn’t the ground a lovely shade of brown today? My, but look at the little ants as they scurry on their way like little…” and he paused a moment before he finished, “…ants”. A smile crept across the little butterfly’s face and she giggled at his silly yet true observation. “I think I see,” she said with care, “Your shell is thick, but maybe not uncrackable!” She smiled and whispered “It’s alright, I can stay awhile to talk and listen!”
For a time there was a funny banter as the little snail slowly grew accustomed to this newfound friend. As the days came and went he cautiously came to feel at ease until the time finally arrived when he realized how much he looked forward to talking with his new friend the little butterfly. The lazy spring gave way to the warmth of summer, and as it did he felt more inclined to reach a little further beyond his shell.
Through the days the little snail would sometimes gaze up while he was all alone, and stare with longing at the warm sunlight high on the garden wall. But when his friend the little butterfly would flutter down for their visit and ask what he was looking at, he would simply answer, “Why I was looking for you all along!” And the little butterfly would smile warmly, but she knew that more truth lay deeper beneath the surface.