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The Special Train

Word of the new dam spread quickly throughout the animal kingdom. Soon the man-made structure would be complete and the valley would be flooded. Creatures of every kind hastened from the lowlands of their genesis to save themselves by reaching higher ground.

In the quiet following the exodus of the majority, the struggles of the remaining few could be heard quite clearly. In a hollowed-out log, five soon-to-be traveling companions first encountered each other.

The unlikely group included a centipede, a caterpillar, a mantis, a beetle and a cricket. Emergencies dictate rapid acquaintanceships and so the discovery of the ironic commonality which brought them together was both immediate and sobering. They were alike because they were different.

The caterpillar was sightless; the mantis could not walk; the beetle was not very alert; the cricket was deaf; and the centipede had but ninety-nine legs. Though physically diverse, mentally they were bound by their mutual will to survive. They remained in the tree for several hours getting to know each other's strengths and constructed their escape plan.

At sunrise, from its round house, emerged a very unusual train. In the lead was the beetle. A powerful insect -- with a hard shell to break through obstacles and a bright smile to serve as a beacon -- he was the unanimous choice for engineer and locomotive. Next came the caterpillar and centipede linked side by side -- the caterpillar filling the gap from his friend's missing leg, and the centipede providing the vision for them both. The mantis was the dining car, scooping up edibles with her large hands and feeding them to the others with her long arms. The cricket was a perfect caboose -- his long legs not only carried through the momentum, but also made a distinct noise which the beetle listened for as assurance that the train was still intact.

As their journey continued, their collaboration spanned canyons and their camaraderie moved boulders. But there were also moments of crisis that each had to face alone. The beetle became confused about directions and began to panic.

"Oh, dear! Should I turn right or left? What if I get us lost? What if I get us lost!"

The caterpillar was tempted more than once to withdraw into a restful cocoon.

"Maybe if I just took a nap, it would all be over when I wake up!"

The centipede stumbled and was inclined to give up.

The mantis started to doubt and struggled to keep the faith. "Ooooh, friends, we may not make this trip!"

The cricket was weary and considered dropping off into silent oblivion.

"I'm at the end. Maybe I could just drop off and they wouldn't miss me."

But somewhere within each found the resource it needed to persevere and so they continued.

At last, they entered the station of safety wherein the other animals, at first, stood in stunned admiration and then burst forth with a thunderous ovation as the mantis led them all in a prayer of thanksgiving.

Only then did they know how truly special they were. For, unlike the average beings who; hear but may not listen; see but do not look; touch but seldom reach; walk but are not moved; and think but barely reason -- these five harbingers of hope; heard with their eyes; saw with their hands; touched with their hearts; walked with their minds and thought with their souls.

It Follows:
Courage is the refusal to allow fate to conquer faith.

The Special Train was written and narrated by Julie Reder Fairley. Character voices were provided by Anthony Reece and Evelyn O'Dwyer. This parable is dedicated to Julie's son Mark.


Guiding Questions for "The Special Train"


This story is about the face of adversity. As a leader, you can expect to face many situations which will require your valor. Think of brave individuals you have admired for their courage. Are you courageous? How do you know?

2. Everyone has strengths and limitations. A balanced leadership team will expand the capacity of each of its members. If you were free to hire a leadership team, what qualities would you look for in order to compensate for your limitations?
3. Believing that the promise of the future can transcend present challenges is faith. Fate is defined as a power which predetermines events. Each day, our faith can be confronted by situations we did not expect to create. What guides you in such situations? When do you know that the battle is important enough to be fought?
4. For every person who secures a position of leadership, there are others who aspired to that position but did not attain it. How can we enlist the assistance and support of those who were our competitors?

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