Rabbit prided himself in being the fastest animal in all the forest. Everyday, he raced around the woods at breakneck speed; stopping only to boast to any other animal he came across about how much faster he was than them.
One day, he came across Turtle contently eating a piece of lettuce. He stopped and watched in horrified fascination as she stretched out her neck, bit down firmly and deliberately on the lettuce leaf, then retracted her neck before slowly and methodically starting to chew. Rabbit felt as if a day had passed just watching Turtle take a single bite. “You’re so slow!” he yelled at Turtle. “I bet I could circle the woods three times before you even finish that bite!”
“Mmhmm,” Turtle agreed, still chewing her bite.
“How are you ever going to get anything done? You’re wasting your life away!”
Turtle gave a noncommittal grunt as she continued to chew her bite of lettuce.
“God you’re worthless! I’ll prove it to you! I’ll race you! Whoever wins is the fastest, best, greatest animal in the forest!” Rabbit said.
Turtle finally swallowed her bite and turned her head to look at Rabbit, “I suppose, if you feel it’s necessary,” she stated.
Rabbit ran off to tell all the animals of the forest about their race before she even finished speaking. Turtle watched until he was out of sight; then shook her head and stretched out her neck for another bit of lettuce.
The day of the race all the forest animals gathered around to watch. As soon as the race started Rabbit ran off as fast as his legs could carry him. Turtle meanwhile, trundled along the race track at her usual, unhurried pace.
As Rabbit reached the halfway point he realized that Turtle was nowhere in sight and decided he needed to really rub it in her face how slow she was compared to him. He scampered off to find some other animals he could waste time with. Soon, he came across Moose and Squirrel walking along the race track. But before he could approach them he heard them talking.
“Who do you think is going to win the race?” asked Squirrel.
“Who cares?” replied Moose.
“It’d be nice if Turtle wins.”
“She won’t. This whole thing is a set up to stroke Rabbit’s fragile ego.”
Angry at what he heard, Rabbit ran off to find other animals, intent on letting them know what jealous gossips Moose and Squirrel were. But everywhere he went he only found other animals echoing similar complaints.
“Maybe he’ll finally shut up how fast he is after this race,” Mongoose complained.
“Why would you challenge Turtle to a race to prove how fast you are? Turtle is famous for being slow! Rabbit’s just being a bully,” said Starling.
“What’s he trying to prove? It’s like if I challenged Duck to a fight. So Duck’s not good at fighting, so what?” said Bear.
“Yeah, or if I challenged you to a ‘floating on the lake’ contest,” replied Duck. “He a bully and he’s just picking on poor Turtle because she won’t fight back.”
Dismayed at all he heard Rabbit stopped, and for the first time in his life, thought about his actions. “What does it prove if I can beat Turtle in a race?” he asked himself. Hopping back to Turtle he found she’d only just passed the first bend. She nodded to him as he stopped to watch her race. He thought about running rings around her, laughing at her ineptitude, but the thought only produced a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Depressed and dejected he hopped home. The previous exhilaration he felt at the thought of winning the race replaced with an empty feeling he didn’t understand.
Turtle ‘won’ the race later that night, but the animals were too confused at Rabbit’s sudden disappearance to celebrate. They made a haphazard attempt to find him, but one by one, they gave up, rationalizing that he could take care of himself, and they only needed to worry if they couldn’t find him by tomorrow evening.
Later that day, Rabbit crept out of his burrow and hopped over to where he’d first found Turtle. She was there, eating her lettuce. She nodded to him when he stood out in front of her. “You won the race. Are you happy now?” he asked.
Turtle stopped mid neck stretch. “I was never unhappy,” she said. “And you? Did you find what you needed?”
“I don’t know,” Rabbit admitted. He sat down. Minutes passed as he watched Turtle munch a single bite. “Is it-? Is the lettuce good?” he asked as she swallowed the bite.
She stretched her neck out again, this time to use her head to push the lettuce leaf toward Rabbit. “Try it for yourself and tell me.”
Rabbit stared at the lettuce leaf, expecting it to suddenly leap at him or Turtle to mock him for being eating incorrectly. Finally, with Turtle faintly smiling at him, he took a slow, deliberate nibble of the lettuce.
It was juicy and refreshing.
Moral of the Story:
The belittlement of others will never lead to true happiness.