The Grasshopper and the ants - an Aesop's fable about delayed gratification...
This week the children are learning about insects (a two week topic/ them they all get very interested in. One story we give the ECD practitioners to tell is:
The Grasshopper and the ants – an Aesop’s fable
All through the long summer days, the ants had worked hard gathering food for the winter days when snow lay deep on the ground.
As they gathered their food and put it in their storehouse the lazy grasshopper looked at them and laughed.
‘You fools!’ he said ‘Why do you work when the sun is high in the sky? This is a time for singing and playing.’
The ants took no notice of him. They went on working hard, collecting enough food to see them through the long winter days and nights. As they did so the grasshopper lay in the sun, singing happily.
But soon summer was over. Winter ruled the land covering everything with snow and ice, There was no food to be found anywhere. The grasshopper, who had stored no food for the winter months, was starving. He limped over to the storehouse where the ants had stored their food.
‘What do you want?’ asked the ants, as they carried on sweeping, tidying and sorting. The ants were always busy.
‘I am very hungry,’ begged the grasshopper. ‘Please give me some of the food you saved, or I will starve to death.’
‘You should have thought of that in the summer when you were busy with your playing and your singing,’ said the ants. ‘If you spent the summer singing then maybe you should spend the summer dancing and not bother about eating at all.’
The ants would not give the grasshopper a single scrap of their food and he went away sad and hungry.
Moral ( Aesop always had a moral): We should always make plans for the future
I know very well what Apartheid did to our country. It prevented people from saving for the future by all sorts of means, removing homes, preventing land ownership, restricting incomes, ensuring lack of employment to create a more amenable workforce and so much more…It also created a deeply dependent relationship and adults who could never truly take their proper adult place in society. It also created deep anger and a justifiable and understandable feeling once Apartheid ended of a deep desire of having their wrongs redressed. Of course the Truth Commission did help. However, I cannot spend as much time as I do with people who are still living in poverty in South Africa and not feel the ‘just under the skin’ resentments. Or the feeling that whatever is given is simply not enough to assuage their wrongs both historically and sadly, still at present…
So sometimes I feel like we give into this bottomless pit of longing, desire and anger.
It is not helped of course, by the fact that Apartheid destroyed families in a way that we still see the effects of – especially in the way babies and children are shunted from home to home and in inadequate parenting especially by teens. So even children of the New South Africa feel under nurtured, angry and with ‘un-fill-up-able’ desires…
I have seen traditional stories from all parts of the world giving the same moral of work before play, and taking responsibility for one’s own future. I suspect this fable and its cousins in other parts of the world effected and reflected the ability of the middle class to ‘delay gratification’, one of the reasons why the middle class is the middle class.
I just hope that we can infuse enough hope in our children so that they can delay gratification for future good (and good ECD is well documented as helping enormously with this). And not to resent work, but rather to embrace it as a means to an end – one of independence and a real sense of self-worth…
And also to accept that while others may get ‘more’ what they have is sufficient for their needs both physical and emotional.
It is not easy though, and we still have some way to go in SA to rid ourselves of the emotional shackles of Apartheid. We must nevertheless try - and I truly believe that hard work heals and creates self-belief and independence.