It was a bright and sunny day. I was rolling about in the grass, investigating tiny red flowers and miniature daisies when I came upon a lump of a Thing, splotched and ugly. It was too not pretty. Yeccch.
It suddenly twitched. It hopped! It was a live ugly Thing! I jumped on it with both feet.
My mother’s voice cried out, “Stop that at once!”
I was defending our home against an unknown Thing. I knew it didn’t belong in the garden. I knew about the bees and wasps and ants and butterflies, who did. One foot in the air, I halted just as I was beginning to pick up momentum.
Mother came running over. “Stop it!”
“Why?” I was surprised.
“Because you’re hurting it. It’s just a little toad.”
Here was a very new idea. It could hurt, this ugly Thing. I had to think it over.
Kneeling down, my mother said, “When you jump on it, it hurts. Suppose somebody ten times as big as you decided to jump on you, how would you feel?”
I had trouble imagining that. I looked down at the Thing again. Its feet were sort of scrabbling in the grass. Had I hurt it?
It had never occurred to me that I had the power to inflict pain. I knew what hurt was, a bee had explained it very clearly.
“Let’s wait and see if it can move,” said Mother worriedly. “I hope it’s all right.” She would not let me pick it up. We knelt there in the grass for a long time.
I could inflict pain. So I could no longer experience myself solely as a passive target of reality. I would never intentionally hurt again. Mother and toad had taught me compassion.
The toad stirred, scrabbled, and hopped off.
Storry by J.A. Lawrence