There's a famous story that's been around a long, long, time. It's about a snake.
You may have heard it.
Most likely, hundreds of teachers, including myself, have told it to the young people in their charge.
I don't know who the original author might have been, but they have my gratitude. I'm grateful because one or two of the young people who heard the tale in my class said that it made them think.
Thinking is a wonderful thing in a teenager.
So, just in case you haven't heard about snakes, or know a kid who's fooling around with one, here it is.
There once was an Indian people who made their home on the vast plains of a beautiful land. Majestic mountains stood guard in the distance.
This tribe had many honored traditions handed down from generation to generation. Among those traditions was a right of passage that all the young braves and maidens undertook as they left childhood and became adults.
It involved a sacred journey.
This is the story of one.
A lovely young maid stood at the edge of her village at dawn on a summer's day. It was her fifteenth birthday and now it was time to make her way into adulthood. Her family and friends surrounded her to wish her well.
The sun rose as she walked across the golden fields, until finally at midday she reached the sacred mountains. This was where she was to make the difficult climb to a lofty overlook. She began to make her way over the jagged rocks and after several hours at last she could see the secluded ledge. It was large, sheltered from the wind, and faced beautiful vistas of the valley below.
When she reached the ledge the maiden sat to rest, and then to contemplate her future and her place in it. She watched as the sun set and the stars began to appear. She prepared a place to sleep and built a fire for warmth and to prepare her food. The night passed with the young woman deep in thought, surounded by the beauty of the stars and sky.
Dawn broke and the maiden prepared to return home. As she did, there came a rustle fom some brush and nearby rocks. Turning toward the sound, she saw a large rattlesnake beginning to coil and raise it's deadly head.
In fear she began to slowly back away. She was grateful to see that she was just out of reach of the deadly serpent.
But then an amazing thing happened. Something she could scarcely believe. As the snake raised it's ugly head from its coils it began to speak to her!
"Lovely maiden," he hissed, "There's no need to be afraid. I mean you no harm. In fact, I need your help."
In astonishment she listened as the snake continued.
"You see, I find myself unable to get down from this ledge and back to my home on the plains below. The sharp rocks make it impassible. But, if you will carry me down with you I will repay the favor with great gifts."
The snake hissed on, "Wondrous gifts await you, I promise! You'll see colors you've never imagined, hear sounds never before heard, and feel amazing sensations that defy description!"
The young girl stepped back and said in disgust, "No, never! You're a deadly snake! You'll surely kill me."
"You can trust me, young maiden," he went on. "I'd never hurt you! Believe me. To prove it, I'll even give you a special treasure. I'll bestow great confidence and beauty upon you! Everyone will find you irresistable! I promise."
So, enticed by his silky words, the maiden lowered her hand to the ground.
The snake slowly slithered up her arm and draped himself around her shoulders, his huge head poised to whisper in her ear.
She shuddered, but then began working her way around the sharp rocks. All the while the snake repeated his golden promises.
At last she reached the base of the mountain. She lowered her arm so the snake could slither off, glad to be rid of him forever.
Just as his tail slipped off her fingertips, the great snake turned its head, as if to say goodbye.
Instead he lunged, sinking his venom filled fangs deep into her neck.
As the maiden writhed in agony and fell to the ground, she called out in disbelief, "You lied! You promised! You said you wouldn't hurt me!"
The snake was already slithering away. But he paused just long enough to turn,
"Really, you foolish girl." he smirked,
"You can't possibly be suprised."
As he slithered off he hissed with an evil grin,
"You knew I was a snake when you picked me up."
Think about it.
Thinking is a wonderful thing.