One Small Bird


The forest was still--too still. A whiff of gray twirled upward. A small tongue of yellow crept through the dry leaves, tentatively curled itself around a tree, then seized upon the bark and surged upward, leaping from tree to tree. "Fire!" cried the crow. "Flee!"

The forest creatures flew, ran, crawled toward the river and safety. Mother quail was a hundred yards down the trail before instinct sent her back to round up her chicks. Frantically she called and clucked and coaxed them together so she could lead them down the trail to safety. The deer, normally very graceful, tripped over a log in his panic.

A small brown bird flew with the others to the safety of the far river bank. As he sat on the far bank watching the forest burn, he asked "What can we do?"

There was no answer

"But that is our home," he said. "It is burning."

Silence was the only answer he received.

Refusing to accept such an answer, he replied. "I am but one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something." So saying, he flew down, scooped up a bill full of water and flew to dump it on the fire. Time after time he returned to the river until his wings were gray and smoky.

High above, the gods looked down at the confusion below. And they laughed.

"Look at that frantic little quail. She almost forgot her children. She is going in circles trying to find them!"

"Did you see the deer fall over the log? Flat on the log with all 4 legs flailing!"

"But what is that little bird doing?" mused one god.

"He is trying to put out the fire with a billfull of water!"

"But why? I will find out." And putting on the form of an eagle, the god flew down beside the little bird as it winged its way back to the river. "Why do you do this?" he asked.

"I am but one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.

Returning to the skies, the god put off his eagle form and rejoined the other gods.

"Well? What is he doing?"

"He says," said the god, "he says, 'I am but one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.'"

Tears welled up in the gods' eyes. They fell as gentle rain on the flames below, quenching the fire.


Retold by Rose Owens Copyright 1999


In a world of chaos and confusion things may often look hopeless. May I and you remember "I am but one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.

Permission is granted to share One Small Bird orally. Written copies should carry the copyright notice. Please contact me for permission for multiple printed copies.


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