It was story time with my 5 year old son again and today's story was "Friend in need is friend indeed"
An old man wanted to cross the jungle and reach his village as fast as he could. He met a young man who was also going in the same direction. Both decided to travel together and help each other if there is a difficulty. Suddenly, they saw a bear chasing them. Both started to run. Obviously, young man ran faster. Old man said, "I can't run fast. Let's take my stick and fight with the bear". The young man did not listen and climbed the tree and hid. The old man shouted for help but no avail. Suddenly, he thought of a bright idea. He lay still on the ground as if he was dead. The bear sniffed and went away as the bears don't eat animals which are already dead. The young man climbed the tree down and asked old man what happened. The Old man was quite upset and said,"the bear whispered in his ears that the young man was not worthy to be his friend since he did not help him to save his situation." Moral : Friend in need is friend indeed.
With all due respect, the old man was expecting too much from the young man. What was he supposed to do? Fighting the bear with stick does not sound like an exciting plan and had very low probability of success. Running as fast as you can when the hunter is chasing you is an animal instinct. It is in our genes we can't not do it. When a herd of wild buffaloes is chased by lions, they run. If the stay together as a group instead of running probably lion won't be able to hunt them. But they don't. They run for their lives. Thats what the young man did. He did not want the old man to die. He just wanted to save himself.
My real problem with this story is that we are setting a wrong expectation in our children's young minds about what a real friend is. This story sets the bar too high. Nobody including your best friend should be "expected" to make a sacrifice or put their life in danger for you. If they do it, they are great and are definitely the best friends but if they don't do it one can't blame them.
We have to educate our kids that in extreme situations they have to take their own responsibility. In real life , that is what happens. For extreme situations, the best person to counter the situation is YOU and you have to do it bravely. That is likely to bring out the best in you, like it did for the old man. As long as he was expecting the young man to help, he did not do anything to help himself. When he knew he was alone and young man was not going to help, he came up with a brilliant idea to save himself.
This story tries to deliver a positive and altruistic conclusion by sighting a negative example. That is simply not convincing. I agree with the conclusion but story does not do justice to the great thought. So I decided to re-write the story.
An old man wanted to cross the jungle and reach his village on the other side as fast as he could. He met a young man who was also going in the same direction. Both decided to travel together and help each other if there is a difficulty. Suddenly, they saw a bear chasing them. Both started to run. Obviously, young man ran faster. As they were running they thought of a plan. The old man to lay down still on the ground and the young man climbed a nearby tree. As the bear came nearer the young man reached out to some balloons in his pocket. He quickly blew up a few balloons and as bear bent down to sniff the old man and he bursted them to create a loud bang. The bear got scared and ran away. Both were happy that their plan worked. They became very good friends for rest of their lives. Moral : Friend in need is friend indeed.