Aesop was a storyteller who lived between 620 and 560 BC in ancient Greece. He is credited with the telling of fables—stories with a moral center designed to teach right from wrong. He often used God’s creatures as the characters in the stories, which helped children to remember the stories better. One of his all-time classic stories was that of the grasshopper and the ants. In the story, the ants are busy all summer gathering food. They work extra hard, not only to sustain their colony each day, but to gather extra food, in order to survive the harsh winter months when food is scarce. The grasshopper, in contrast, fiddles all summer long, not giving any care to the pending months of shortage ahead. The grasshopper questions the ants in their excessive work, even chiding them for being foolish. Nevertheless, the ants press on. When the winter months come, the ants indeed are prepared and the grasshopper is left in the cold. The moral of the story is to prepare ahead in times of plenty for the pending days of necessity.
The value of work—a lasting value
We can take so many messages from this story. One that jumps out at me is the value of hard work. My parents both had to work very hard for the things they had. My dad was born and raised in Egypt. He came to America as a college student. He had to learn the language and the culture, all while supporting himself through school and keeping his grades up. My mother came as a teenager after fleeing East Germany after the war. She came with my grandmother and my aunt. All three of them left behind everything they knew to start a new life in a free country. Life was very hard for both of my parents, but their work ethic pulled them through the rough times of life. Luckily, they instilled the same work ethic in me and my brothers. We all had paying jobs at a young age, we studied hard in school, and we each graduated college and made good lives for ourselves and our families. Hard work was part of who we were, and it still drives us today.
Physical preparedness brings temporal peace
We can also learn about the sense of security that comes from being prepared. This is a tremendous blessing. I grew up in a home where my mother was very well aware of the need to buy a few extra cans of food for a “rainy day”. We had several shelves lined up in the basement stocked with soups, flour, sugar, oil, candles, matches and other necessities in case there was a need. My mother learned this because of the hardships she had to endure growing up during World War II. She learned well, and taught me to do the same. Even though I have not had to endure the trials of war here on my home soil, I keep extra items in stock. Nothing can replace the sense of security we feel by doing this.
Spiritual preparedness brings lasting peace
As disciples of Christ, we are taught to look beyond the wisdom of the world to a higher, more spiritual law. While the story of the grasshopper and the ants is one about physical preparedness, it can also be interpreted as one dealing with spiritual preparedness. When trials of the heart fall upon us, what is our reaction? Do we fall apart emotionally or are we grounded with a sense of spiritual surety?
I’ll never forget when the United States was attacked on September 11th 2001. I live in New Jersey, so the attack on the Twin Towers in NYC hit close to home. I knew people from my local church congregation who worked in New York. I was so frightened for them and their families, as I had no idea of their whereabouts. Then I spoke to one of the women in our congregation. She had been home watching the news report of the attack. She said once she realized what was going on, she turned off the television and opened her scriptures. She could not control the situation of the world, but she could control her own spiritual center. She knew she could get comfort through the scriptures. It was the best thing she could have done. It brought clarity of mind back to her during a time when the world seemed chaotic.
Gathering a spiritual harvest
I will admit, when the attack on 9/11 happened, I was so distraught; my spiritual center was knocked off balance. I’ve been faithful in my religion, dedicated to serving the Lord. I have not always been perfect but I had been humble and repentant. I had been taught that if we add to our spiritual vessels, like one drop of oil to our lamps, we can be prepared to shine in the darkest of times. I’ve known the Lord to be with me in seasons of joy and in times of sorrow, but this was a time of deep and agonizing sorrow—would He be able to comfort me again? Thankfully, I followed my friend’s lead and turned to the Lord as well, in scripture and in prayer. Never before had my scriptures been more meaningful to me. The passages I read seemed to jump off the page with a clarity and understanding I had never before known. I am convinced this was because of my spiritual foundation. While it was not within the Lord’s plan to thwart the attack, it was in his plan to comfort me and to extend that comfort to all those who needed it. I gained strength to thank my Heavenly Father for the blessings I have—my knowledge of his eternal plan and his ability to make all things right through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Can we learn beyond what Aesop taught?
Aesop wanted to teach the value of work and to be prepared in times of shortage. But Aesop was not Jesus Christ—there is more to this message. Indeed , there is a higher message that can be taught from this fable. Next week I’d like to plead the case of the grasshopper.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.