Adapted from "One Flower in a Field" by Joshua Searle-White, in Magic Wanda's Travel Emporium: Tales of Love, Hate and Things in Between (Boston: Skinner House, 2007).
Once upon a time there was a field. It had dry grass, brambles and thistles, and high places and low places, and rocks scattered around, and a stream that passed alongside. And scattered around, here, there and everywhere, were flowers. Buttercups and tulips, coneflowers and lupines, all kinds of bright, beautiful flowers growing up out of the dry grass.
Now, you may ask, how could these flowers grow when the field was so dry? The answer is that next to each flower was a hole in the ground. And in each hole lived an animal whose job it was to tend that flower.
Most were rabbits, but there were hedgehogs and field mice and even a badger or two. Every morning, each animal would come out of its hole, hop or scurry down to the stream, and use a leaf to scoop up some water. Then they would each carry their leaf back and water their flower.
In a little gully in this field, next to a tall sunflower, lived a rabbit. Every day she would go down to the stream and get some water for her sunflower. She loved that flower. It was tall and bright, strong and healthy, and she took very good care of it.
One afternoon, the rabbit decided to hop up to the top of a little hill alongside her gully. When she got to the top, she saw something she had never seen before. Down a ways, she saw a flower. It might have been a daisy, but it was hard to tell. This flower looked in bad shape.
Now, why had she never seen that flower before? It's not that big a mystery. She had just never climbed that particular little hill to look in that direction. Of course, she knew the field was full of flowers. She may have heard some were not doing quite as well as her sunflower. But she'd never actually seen one that looked as bad as this.
She hopped down the hill to take a closer look, and then, she began to understand. This flower needed water. Its stem was bent. Its petals were wilting in the heat. The ground around it was parched and dry. The rabbit felt bad that a flower could be so neglected. And then she did... .nothing.
Even though the flower looked terrible, it was just one flower in a field, after all. The field had plenty of other flowers that were doing fine. The rabbit had enough work to do, watering her own flower. So she went home and got on with her business, getting up every morning, going to the stream, watering her sunflower and hopping around all afternoon.
But the other flower didn't go away. At least once a day, the rabbit couldn't help but hop up to the top of the hill and take a quick look. Every day, the other flower looked a little worse.
It started to get to her. The rabbit thought about that flower at night while she was trying to sleep. She thought about it in the morning when she hopped to the stream for water. She couldn't even enjoy her own flower so much, knowing the other flower was wilting more and more every day.
Now, you may wonder: Why didn't that rabbit didn't just go over and water the flower? After all, it was not far away, just on the other side of the hill. The stream had plenty of water. And the rabbit had plenty of time.
Well, that's a good question. The rabbit thought about it all the time. She'd think about making an extra trip to the stream, to get some water for that flower. But then she'd think, "Well, you don't just march into someone's front yard and water their flower without asking, do you? What if that flower is someone else's to water? They might yell at me or something." Or she'd think, "What if the flower likes being dried-up and droopy? That's possible, isn't it?" Or she'd think, "Aren't there animals who are supposed to go around and help out flowers whose animals don't water them? I should leave it to them... Right?"
With all these questions swirling in her head, the rabbit went about her business, taking care of her sunflower every day and trying not to think about the other flower. But it kept bothering her, especially at night. It was kind of irritating, actually. Sometimes she wished the flower would just get better by itself, or die. But every time she sneaked a peek, there it was, looking more dry, more wilted and more droopy.
Finally, the rabbit could stand it no longer. One morning, hopping from the stream with a leaf full of water for her sunflower, she suddenly thought, "It's just not right. Flowers are not supposed to wilt like that. Flowers should be healthy and colorful and bright and beautiful." And she found herself hopping over the hill toward the other flower, taking the water there instead.
At the top of the hill, the rabbit got a bit nervous. Her nose twitched as she sniffed the air. It might be dangerous over there. She shouldn't be watering other animals' flowers. But then she said, "It's just not right," and kept going, over the hill and down the other side.
The rabbit hopped close to the dry flower, closer than she had been before. Suddenly, a hedgehog suddenly popped out of a hole in the ground. The hedgehog yelled, "Hey! What are you doing?"
"I'm going to water this flower," the rabbit said. "It's too dry, and if I don't water it, it will die!"
The hedgehog said, "What business is it of yours whether this flower dies? This is my flower. I'll take care of it how I want. Go home and take care of your own flower!"
But the rabbit answered, "I'm sorry, but I tried that. Flowers are supposed to be bright and beautiful, not wilting and droopy. So I'm going to water this flower." She watered that dry, wilted, drooping daisy, right in front of the hedgehog, though he fussed and mumbled and gave her mean looks. And she turned around and hopped back over the hill.
The next day, she came back with a leaf full of water, and watered it again.
And the day after that, she watered it again.
And then another day, and another, and another. The hedgehog continued to fuss and mumble and give the rabbit mean looks. But the flower started to look better. First the petals perked up. Then the stem began to stand up a little straighter. Then its leaves started to fill out and get bigger. The flower even grew a little taller.
Strangely enough, as this flower got brighter and healthier and taller and more beautiful, so did the rabbit's own flower. And so did every other flower, all the flowers in the field, even ones she never watered—flowers she had never even noticed before. The whole field began to brighten as the colors of every flower became more vivid and the flowers stretched taller. It was almost as if there was more water everywhere.
How could that be? Were other rabbits and hedgehogs and field mice and even badgers sneaking around and watering other animals' flowers, too? Or was it because when someone waters a wilting flower somewhere, all flowers everywhere grow a little brighter?
Who knows? Maybe we'll just have to try it and see.