Years ago I came across what appeared to be a children’s book at a bookstore. It was a simple story about a caterpillar, filled with colorful illustrations. However, upon reading it, I realized that there was more to this than I had expected.
For a long time, I regretted not having bought the book that day, but I couldn’t remember the title.
I have put the story into my own words below, but if you like the message, I recently found out that the book is called “Hope for the Flowers” by Trina Paulus.
Once upon a time there was a little caterpillar. He was finally on his own and wanted to make something of his life, but he didn’t know where to start. He sat on a rock, to think about how he might be able to achieve his dreams.
Soon a group of caterpillars hurried by. He called out to them, but they were in too big a rush to notice him.
“Gosh”, thought the little caterpillar, “they look like they know where they’re going! I’ll follow them.”
And follow them he did. More and more caterpillars joined the group.
Eventually, they came to a huge gathering of caterpillars, and the little caterpillar saw something he couldn’t believe. Ahead of him was a huge column of caterpillars, all climbing on top of one another, creating a tower of caterpillars that stretched upwards as far as the eye could see.
The little caterpillar stopped in his tracks, looking up in awe. All the other caterpillars were rushing to the base of the tower.
“What am I supposed to do?” asked the little caterpillar.
Another caterpillar paused just long enough to shout over his shoulder, “Don’t you know?! You must climb up the tower. Success lies at the top.” And then he hopped into the crawling mass of caterpillars, and was gone.
The little caterpillar knew what he had to do. He gulped nervously and plunged into the column.
It was cramped beyond belief with caterpillars fighting to climb upwards. One caterpillar even stepped on the little caterpillar’s head in order to push himself up.
“So that’s how it is,” thought the little caterpillar.
And with that, he took a deep breath, and fought with all his might. He pushed and squirmed and fought and climbed higher and higher and higher. He soon became the fastest climber around. Once he even stepped on another caterpillar’s head, but he was determined to reach the top. He knew that if he could make it to the top he would find success, and all his dreams would come true.
He soon lost all track of time, but he felt as though he had been climbing for weeks and weeks. Then one day, he did it. He broke through to the top!
He was breathless in anticipation for what he would find. He looked around and saw-
…There was nothing. Just air. He frantically scanned the horizon searching for something…anything. Then he noticed something unsettling. In the distance, he saw that there were many other caterpillar towers. All packed with thousands of caterpillars pushing their way to the top. Pushing their way to…nothing. The towers just climbed upwards, and then ended. The caterpillars at the top were no better off. They were no closer to achieving their dreams then the ones at the bottom.
The caterpillar sat there for a few moments, letting it sink in.
And then he just dove down, back into the column.
“What are you doing?!” asked a confused caterpillar as the little caterpillar passed him.
“Are you crazy? You’re going the wrong way!” shouted another caterpillar.
But the little caterpillar ignored them and continued downwards until he finally found himself back on the ground. He looked once more up at the tower, turned on his heels, and walked away. He may not have known where he was going, but he knew the answers didn’t lie here.
He walked aimlessly for some time, and he soon grew bored. Before his big trek to the towers, one of his favorite things to do was to spin silk. He never thought it would amount to much so he had given it up. Now, he spun silk with joyful abandon. He got better and better at it, and soon he was able to spin it into beautiful shapes. He spun a lovely silk button that was so strong he was able to hang from it. He was so tired from all the spinning that he decided to take a nice long nap.
He had no idea how long he had slept, but when he awoke he found that he was inside a chrysalis. Once he had pushed his way out, he realized that something was very different.
His body had changed, and he was no longer a caterpillar. He had undergone a metamorphosis. He now had two, beautiful, brightly colored wings. He had become a butterfly!
He flapped his wings and took off into the sky. He was flying! He flew off in exhilaration, over the hills, over the caterpillar towers and beyond, into his wildest dreams.
Following the rules and doing things the way they’re “supposed to be done” isn’t always the answer.
There are many ways to get to where you want to be. If you live in New York and want to get to California you could travel to the West. But you could also travel to the East and get there as well; it just might take a little longer.
And on your journey, you just might find a new destination that’s so much better than the one you had intended!