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Breaking Free

“I want to be free!” screamed Little Flower, as loudly as she could – which wasn’t very.
All the flowers around her sighed in the breeze.  “There she goes again….”
“I want to fly!” she roared, though it sounded more like a whimper.
Little Flower twisted her petals this way and that, straining to liberate herself from her stem.  But for the life of her, she couldn’t get it to budge.
The flowers around her asked, “Why would you want to get off your stem?  You’d fly, all right – fly into the wind and dry up and disappear before your time.  Why would you leave us?  We’re your friends.  We’d be sad.  We’d miss you.  Life is good, Little Flower!  Let’s enjoy what we have, while we have it!”
“I can’t stand it!  I’ve got to get free from this stem!  For me, life stuck in one place is no life at all!” she insisted.
Little Cricket hopped along and asked, “What’s the fuss, Little Flower?”
“I am so glad to see you!  Please, please, snip me off my stem so I can fly away!”
“Oh, Little Flower, I can’t do that.  I can nibble on your leaves, but to snip you off your stem would deprive you of your life and me of my lunch.  You’d fly away, all right – and shrivel up and crumble into dust.  Your seeds come from your flower, and if I snip you off, I deprive you of your future, and me of mine.”
“Oh please, please, please!  Snip me off and set me free!”
“Let me talk to my people,” said Little Cricket.  “This calls for a council.”
Little Cricket gathered the elders of his community and posed the question.  “Little Flower wants to be free from her stem, and wants me to snip her from it.  But of course she’d blow in the wind and dry up and that would be the end of her.  But this is her will.  The stem would of course be a tasty treat for a cricket, but it seems wrong.  What do you say?”
The council of crickets rasped their hind legs loudly as they deliberated.  Finally, their spokescricket spoke.
“We agree that it is both wrong in this particular case and wrong for both crickets and flowers in general.  For the well-being of this flower, and of all flowers, and of all crickets, snipping the flower from the stem is neither morally correct nor environmentally sustainable.”
Little Cricket informed Little Flower of the decision.  She was sad.  “I fed you from my leaves, I enjoyed your chirping.  We were friends.  But you won’t do me this one favor.  I’m so disappointed in you.”
Little Cricket lowered his antennae in shame.  “I have to respect my cricket elders,” he said.  “They are wise and have everyone’s best interests in mind.”
Little Flower’s stamens and pistil were wet with tears.  ” I want to be free, like you are.  Free to go anywhere I want, like you can!”
“But your life looks good to me, Little Flower.  You get your food from your stem, so you’re never hungry.  Sure, I wander the world, but only because I’m always looking for food.  Like right now.  I have to be going!”  And he hopped away.
Little Flower was upset, but more determined than ever to find a way to free herself from her stem.
One night a mighty wind blew over the meadow.  She caught her petals in the wind and let them help her twist and turn against her stem.  All night long she struggled.  All night long the wind blasted as she turned back and forth to catch it.  Finally, at the dawn, she felt the stem weakening and breaking.  She was lifted up into the air, high above the meadow.  Her pistil had become her probiscus, and her stamens had become her antennae.  She pushed them out ahead of her petals and caught the wind and fluttered.
“I’m free!  I’m free!  I’m free!”
Over the meadow, into the forest, up the mountain and down Little Flower flew.  Vistas she could never have imagined burst into view.  Rocky heights, tumbling waters, sweeping plains lay below her.  All day she flew, overwhelmed with joy and awe.
Until dusk, when she felt weak, and could barely move the wings that once had been petals.  Suddenly a bat swooped down.  She barely dodged it in time to avoid being eaten for dinner.  She landed on a blade of grass, but a swallow flew down and almost swallowed her.  She tried to hide in the grass, but was so weak she could hardly move at all.
“Over here, over here!”
The voice was a whisper she could barely hear.
“You need food!  I will feed you!”
It was a flower.  A flower just like the kind she had been only twelve hours before.
“Feed on my nectar!  Then you will be strong again.”  Little Flower flopped over to the flower as best she could, and pressed her pistil into its center. “Wonderful!  It’s so sweet!  To think that I made it, but never tasted it!”
“My friends will feed you, too.  Go feed on them until you are strong again!”
Little Flower thanked the flower from the bottom of her thorax.  She rested on a blade of grass until morning, and then flew back to the meadow where she had been born and raised.
“Little Flower!  Little Flower!” her friends cried out when they saw her.  “Why did you leave us?”
“I wanted to be free,” she answered.  “But now I know that I need you more than ever.  Can I drink your nectar?  It was so much simpler when I had a stem and didn’t need to go looking for food.”
“Yes, yes, feed on our nectar.  That way, you can still be with us!”  said her neighbor flowers.
“My life is so different now,” said Little Flower.  “I am glad I can fly.  But I’m just as glad that you have stems!”
“And we love our stems more than ever!” they said.
Little Cricket hopped by and called out to her.  “Little Flower!  Can that really be you?”
“Yes, yes, it’s me!”
“I am so glad you didn’t dry up and blow away in the wind!  I was so afraid I’d never again see your beautiful petals waving in the wind,” he chirped.
“Well, they are waving now, and it’s hard work!  I’m hungry all the time,” she answered.  “I forgive you for not snipping me off from my stem.  You did what was right.  This was something I had to do all by myself.”
“I’m hungry all the time, too, Little Flower!  Now we are cousins in the insect kingdom.  So from now on, I will call you Little Butterfly.”
With their antennae, they hugged, and Little Cricket hopped as fast and as far as he could to follow her as she flew away.

Rev. Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, USC
Website: MINDFULCHRISTIANITY.ORG Weblog: MUSINGS Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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