In a forest not far from here where time is of no consequence, there was a turtle. This turtle was not like the other turtles. Alfred is his name and the reason he was different is because he was born without a shell.
As Alfred grew up he thought it was great fun not being tied up to a shell. “I can run and dance and just have fun!” Alfred would say to himself and others. “Why would I want to be slowed down by a shell? It doesn’t do anything except get in the way.”
Alfred was naturally the fastest turtle around. He could run on his hind legs and give competition to nearly all the speediest in the woods. Until one day, a newcomer arrived in the forest.
This character was one that was rarely seen in these parts and used that to his advantage. Inhabitants of the woods began noticing berries disappearing from the bushes. “What was going on?”
Alfred said, “I will get to the bottom of this.” And with that he sped off into the woods. His first stop was to ask the Croaking Toads, but they knew nothing nor did they care. He then visited the Fluttering Butterflies, but they were only concerned with the flowers and blossoms in the woods. Who could he turn to? He then spotted someone he thought might know.
“Excuse me, do you happen to know the stranger everyone is talking about?” The fox turned his sly head around and said coolly, “Why yes. As a matter of fact I do. Let me take you to him, I know just where he is staying.” And with that the sly fox led unsuspecting Alfred deep into the woods.
“How much farther is it?” Alfred asked. “It feels like we have been walking forever.”
With a cocky grin on his face, the fox replied, “It is just up around the bend.” A small laugh chuckled out under his breath.
“I haven’t been this deep into the woods before. Everyone says that it gets harder to find food the deeper in you go.”
A triumphant laugh escapes his lips as the fox says, “I find food very easily!” And with that he lunged for Alfred. Luckily Alfred saw the fox and dove out of the way. “Let’s see how fast you really are turtle.” Alfred had always enjoyed races. However, he had never raced for his life until now.
Alfred tore through the forest faster than he had ever gone before and the fox was right on his heels.
What am I going to do? Alfred thought as he desperately tried everything to shake the fox off his tail. He anticipates everything I do. Someone please help me! Just at that moment the fox slid to a stop. What is he doing? Alfred then received his answer.
He had unknowingly run towards the river that flowed through the woods, and unable to stop his momentum, he tumbles over the side of the bank into the river.
“Wake up. Wake up little friend.” A voice was calling Alfred from his deep sleep. “Don’t waste any more time, wake up.” Images of the fox’s face flashed before his eyes as the young turtle sat upright. “Where am I? What happened to the one chasing me?”
“Do not worry. You are safe where you are.”
“Who are you?” Alfred asked.
“I am the one that has answered your call for help. What would you like for me to help you with?”
“Could you give me a way to defend myself from others that want to hurt me? The other turtles can retreat into their shells, but I don’t have a shell.”
“Why do you not have a shell?” The voice asked.
“I wasn’t born with one. I used to think that is what made me special. Now, I think it just makes me vulnerable to others.”
“Why would you want a shell? This would make you like all the other turtles.”
Alfred thought about it for a long time and finally said, “I don’t think it would make me like anyone else because no one else would have a shell exactly like mine. In all the forest, there isn’t another turtle just like me. So I guess I would still be special.”
“Yes, you are special. You have spoken from your heart and I now see the humbleness inside of you. Close your eyes and rest now.” And with that, Alfred fell fast asleep knowing that he was safe from harm.
The next morning Alfred woke up and tried to sit up and stretch. He craned his neck forward and realized that he was on his stomach. What is going on? He thought to himself. Just then, it occurred to him that he had been blessed with a shell. Happy tears streamed down his cheeks as he looked around for the one that gave him this gift. No one was around and he was back in his favorite meadow in the middle of his favorite strawberry patch.
Alfred looked up and said, “Thank you.”