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          ADA'S FABLE: 



One day, a little girl named Ada was walking down the road of life toward her friend Future's house.  Suddenly, she found her way blocked by an immense boulder in the middle of the road. 

She tried to push the boulder out of the way.  She pushed with all her might.  But all she got for her effort was scratched hands and sore muscles.

She looked back down the road she already had traveled.  She didn't want to go back there.  Future lay ahead of her, and Ada just knew they would have a wonderful time together.  "Aha!" she thought.  "I'll climb over the boulder and down the other side!"

But when she looked for footholds, she found few, and when she attempted to climb the boulder, she lost her balance and fell to the ground.  Again and again, she tried, but to no avail.  Once more, she was left with bruises and sore muscles, but no closer to her destination.  She even tried to jump over the boulder, but she couldn't jump high enough or far enough.

She looked around her at the land to the side of the road.  "Caution," the signs read.  "This land is mined.  Maps for safe passage available down the road."  Ada knew what that meant.  The old Peddler had explained it to her.  If you stepped on a mine, it would blow up.  And since she had no map, she dared not go off the road to get around the boulder.

Ada thought about Future, about how much she wanted to get to Future's house.  She crumpled in a heap at the base of the boulder and began to cry in frustration and anger.  A few passersby stopped to ask what was wrong.  Some offered sweets or trinkets, but none offered to help her get to the other side of the boulder.

Suddenly, she heard a horse and wagon.  Looking up, she saw the old Peddler.

"What's the matter now, child?" the Peddler asked impatiently.  In the past, he had been kind to Ada, occasionally giving her bread and fruit and cheese when she was hungry.  So her spirits lifted at the thought that the Peddler might help her get to the other side of the boulder.

"I'm going to my friend Future's house, but this boulder is in my way.  I can't push it away.  I can't climb over it.  I can't jump over it.  And I can't go around it."

"Poor child," said the Peddler.  "I have just what you need.."

He began rummaging in his wagon until he found a rectangular box of bronze that had been carefully packed amid soft rags and old clothing.  The Peddler retrieved the box, unlocked it and carefully removed  three small bottles filled with liquids of different colors.  He held up the first bottle, allowing the sun to stream through the rosy fluid within.

"If you drink this, you will have the strength to jump very high—higher than the boulder.  But jump well.  The effects are only temporary, and this is my last bottle of this elixir "

Ada swallowed hard, thought very carefully and tried to figure out the best place to stand so that she could jump on or over the boulder.  With a determined smile, she took the bottle from the Peddler, removed the stopper and drank the contents.  She felt a slight shiver and knew the magical fluid was working.  Giving the Peddler a confident glance, she rocked back and forth on her feet, concentrating so that she could make the jump a successful one.  At last, she made her leap. 

And it was a very high leap indeed—higher than the than the Peddler's wagon.  Higher than the Peddler's head.  And most important, higher than the top of the boulder.

But when she landed, she found herself on the same side of the boulder as before.

"Harrumph!" growled the Peddler.  "Silly child! Don't you know that you should have run up to the boulder before jumping?  The jumping elixir enhances just your ability to jump up and down, not forward."

Forlorn, Ada beseeched the Peddler to help her again. 
"Hmmm," he murmured.  "I have no more jumping elixir, but try this."  He held up a second bottle, filled with a liquid the color of the sky on a bright summer day.  "This will help you run fast.  Then when you get close to the boulder, you can jump onto it , then climb on over it to the other side.  But there is only enough elixir for one try, and I have no more with me."

Less confident now, Ada took the bottle from the Peddler and drank the contents.  She thought carefully for a moment, then paced off a distance for her running head start.  "Okay," she said.  With arms and legs pumping, she began running.  But before she was quite ready, she had reached the point where she knew must jump to get over the bolder.  Horrified, she found herself unable to make her muscles stop running so that they could jump at the proper time.  If it hadn't been for the Peddler, she would have smashed into the boulder and been seriously hurt.  As it was, she was badly bruised.

Now the Peddler was angry.  "You stupid, lazy girl!" he chastised. " Can't you do anything right?  I have given you two chances, and you have failed miserably.  Maybe you should just stay here, or go back where you came from. You are not worthy of more help."

Ada was confused now.  "But I need to both run and jump to get over the boulder," she entreated.  "Don't you have something else that can help me?"

The Peddler looked thoughtful for a moment and held up the last bottle, filled with a green liquid. 

"Well," he admitted haltingly, "this elixir will enhance both your running and jumping ability."

Ada smiled happily and reached out for the bottle.  But the Peddler pulled it away from her.

"You have already failed at both running and jumping.  You just didn't try hard enough.  You expect my magic potions to do it all for you.  Well, I refuse to waste this last bottle on yet another failure!  It costs me a great deal to prepare these potions.  Go back where you came from and be content that I gave you a chance!" 

And with that, the Peddler turned his back and rode away in his wagon, leaving Ada to dream about what she might have been able to do with the right elixir.

Moral: Government programs are often like the Peddler's magic elixirs.  They promise help but stop short of what's really needed, then lay blame on those they promised to help. 

Copyright 2002 by Laura Remson Mitchell


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