Long, long ago when the earth was being born and creation was new and wet and stretching out in all directions, the slug was given a beginning. Every creature had a purpose and a gift. And as each was born and began to stretch, it knew what it was and why it was becoming in this great and complicated world.
The slug was born a bundle of feelings. It not only had the sharpest eyes, the keenest ears and the most sensitive touch; it also fairly hummed with emotion. It felt the jubilations of happiness, the darkest caves of sorrow, the sharp arrows of fear, and the thundering waves of courage. But best of all, the sensitive slug was gifted with the bravest leaps of selfless love.
In the beginning, as hard as it may be to believe, the slug had wings and feet and fins. It was a creature of the sky, the land and the water. It could soar and crawl and swim. There seemed to be no limit to what this creature could do. One would think with all the gifts that slug had been given, it would be reaching to the edges of creation, stretching out with all its senses to explore and experience all that the world had to offer.
But sadly enough, all creatures do not use the wonderful gifts that they possess. Instead of going out into the world to explore and teach other creatures the emotions that churned and bounced about inside of it, the slug curled itself into a little ball and would not move or talk to any of the other creatures. More than anything, the world needed the gift of love that the slug had been given to share with all of creation. The Creator waited for the slug to stretch out and share the gifts that it had been given with the wide and spinning world.
“It is a dangerous thing,” thought the introverted slug, “to go out into the world with all of these emotions and meet other creatures. My feelings are sensitive and I may get hurt. Other creatures of this world may not treat me with the utmost care. If I stretch out with selfless love and meet the rough touch of anger, my tender skin may be damaged.”
The slug was so concerned with the idea that another creature might damage its sensitive skin, that it pulled itself so far inside of itself, that it finally turned itself inside out. Now its sensitive skin was safely tucked inside, but there was no longer anything left to contain the precious emotions. They flowed like water out of the slug, taking with them the senses that the slug had been gifted with; sight, hearing and touch. The lost gifts flowed into a smooth brown patch of clay by the riverbank. This was the clay that the Creator was preparing to shape into the form of a creature that walked on two legs.
The only feeling that remained with the lowly slug was the clinging moistness of sorrow. Sadly the slug began to pull itself along the forest floor. It did not feel the roughness of the tree bark or the smoothness of the river rock or the sharpness of the pine needle. It only felt its own sorrow. Indeed, it traveled on a path of its own sorrow that it spread beneath itself as it crept along, stretching itself out, searching for the precious gifts that it had lost.
To this day, if you happen to cradle a slug in your hands, the sorrow of the slug will cling to your skin. Sorrow always has been a difficult thing to wash away and so it is with the slimy sorrow of the lowly slug. If you pick up a slug, it hides its head, still trying to protect itself from the world. But if one is very patient and waits and watches with hand wide open, the slug will slowly emerge, put out its feelers (or what is left of its feelings) and begin once more to explore and search for all that it has lost.
The gifts of the slug were not lost to the world forever. They were absorbed by the two-legged creatures, the people, who now roam the earth with their sharp senses and their bundle of churning emotions. Most importantly, they were given the gift of selfless love that reaches out to the other creatures of the earth, teaching them also to love. The two-legged ones are so very different from the lowly slug, but at times, they too try to pull into themselves, protecting their sensitive skin. And when that happens, it is best to be patient. Watch and wait with open hands and heart, until the risk of feeling is taken once more.
By Ruth Gilmore; April 2001
I welcome any comments or helpful critiques that you may have regarding this story. If it might be of use to you in your teaching, feel free to use it. I only ask that my name be attached to the story as I may try to rewrite it someday as a children’s book.