In Dreamfish, a great discussion has started about Learned Helplessness, started by Grant Bowman, inspired by Edward Cherlin and Rick Moen. This got me thinking about Learned Helpfulness…

A story of Learned Helpfulness

Wangari Maathai tells a story about the humming bird who saw a fire in the forest. The humming bird, with its little beak and little wings, chose to do something about the fire. She carried water from the pond to the fire. Back and forth, again and again, she carried drop by drop of water and dropped each drop on the massive raging fire. All the other animals had already decided that it was hopeless to put out the fire. After all, they had learned that fires burn down forests and that’s how life is. They stood by, watching their world burn around them. They stood by, watching the hummingbird carry water to and fro. They stood by, criticizing her for choosing to do something so small, while they chose to do nothing. The hummingbird just kept on carrying water. She did the best she could.

Now, imagine how this story might continue….. As the animals stood by, they watched the humming bird carry the drops of water. As a monkey watched the hummingbird, he imagined himself carrying water in a coconut shell. The elephant, turning his head to watch the hummingbird, felt the swing of his powerful trunk and thought “Well, I can carry water with my big trunk”. Soon, one by one, in small groups, each animal followed the hummingbird in their own way. As more animals saw their friends carrying water, they too began to carry water. Drop by drop, together, they put out the fire. They did the best they could.

Let us each have the courage to carry a drop of water.

Thanks to Urusa Fahim for sharing this video.

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