“I am better than any other creature in the whole forest!” Wendell announced as he and Wiyukcan Hexaka walked along the shore of a lake.
“Oh? What makes you so sure that you are better than anyone else?” asked the Old Moose, glancing sidelong at his young companion.
“I just am,” the youngster stated with confidence and more than a hint of pride.
Wiyukcan Hexaka had heard of this young wolf from his family. Wendell’s attitude had his parents at their wits’ end. They had hopes that the Old Moose might be able to help, since their cub wouldn’t listen to them.
It was a lovely spring day, and many forest creatures were out and about enjoying the warm sun. Frogs croaked from the shores of the lake, turtles sunned themselves on logs, while squirrels and chipmunks raced up and around the trunks and branches of nearby trees. All in all, it was a good day for a walk, as well as a lesson.
“I can do anything better than lesser creatures,” Wendell continued. “I am the best and smartest animal there is!”
“Well then,” said the Old Moose, “let’s put that to a test, shall we?” He stopped abruptly, turning to the shore, forcing Wendell to stop as well. A frog that had been sitting and sunning itself on a rock close by was startled by their sudden change in direction and jumped into the clear water of the lake, swimming down under the surface of the lake and out of sight, hiding itself in the mud on the bottom.
“Can you do that?” Wiyukcan Hexaka asked Wendell, pointing to where the frog had just been. “Can you swim underwater, hide in the mud, and stay there for a long time?”
“I sure can!” shouted Wendell, plunging into the chilly water, scaring many turtles off their logs and splashing a squirrel or two in the process. He swam down to the mud at the bottom of the lake and attempted to bury himself in it. Try as he might, however, he could not stay underwater for very long because he could not breathe under water and needed to come up for air every few seconds. He also found it hard to stay in one place while the water moved around him; it kept nudging him around and he had no way to hold himself in place. So, after several attempts, he gave up and climbed back out, shaking himself off.
“So, is the frog better than you because he can stay underwater, while you can’t?” asked the Old Moose.
“Frogs are stupid,” Wendell snarled. “They can’t do what I can.” Just then, a squirrel scampered up a nearby tree, chattering loudly as it climbed.
“Can you climb a tree like that squirrel?” Wiyukcan Hexaka asked, watching as it went higher into the branches. Quickly it reached the crown of the tree, still scolding down at them, not at all happy at being splashed when Wendell had jumped into the lake.
Wendell ran to the tree, but try as he might, his claws could not get a hold on the bark. He tried running from a greater distance, then jumping to catch the lowest branch, hoping to pull himself up from there. Once again, however, he failed. He kicked the tree’s trunk in frustration, as if the tree were at fault.
“So, is the squirrel better than you because he can climb a tree?” the Old Moose asked.
“Squirrels are stupid, too,” Wendell growled, though with a little less confidence this time. He winced a little when he stepped on the paw that had kicked the tree trunk. The Old Moose just nodded and started walking once again.
That whole day, Wiyukcan Hexaka took Wendell around the forest. As they came upon animals during their travels, the Old Moose would again ask Wendell to do whatever the other animals were doing. From catching fish, like the bears; to building nests, like the birds; try as hard as he could, Wendell was unable to do any of those things.
When Wendell was all tuckered out, and they were heading for home, the Old Moose turned to him and asked if he had learned anything.
“Yes,” Wendell replied, somewhat chastened, “I learned that I am not the best at everything. But, what am I good at, then?”
“You are the best at being a wolf, my young friend,” the Old Moose exclaimed. “That is all you need to be. Everyone is good at some things, while not good at others. You cannot be the best at everything, just best at what you are able to do. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new and difficult things,” he continued, “but that you shouldn’t concern yourself too much with what you find you are not good at. Be happy with what you can be the best at.”
“What if others are better than me at what I can do?” Wendell asked.
“Take the opportunity to learn from them, try harder with what you learn, and someday, you will be the best as well,” the Old Moose answered. “Life is not a competition; it isn’t a race. Life is meant to learn and grow, to be better than you were the day before, not better than others.”
From that day on, Wendell did his best to be the best wolf he could be. He learned from other wolves in his pack, and even improved on a few things, much to the astonishment and pleasure of his family. Occasionally, he would still watch the squirrels running through the branches, or the frogs swimming in the lake, but he no longer wanted to be the best at those things. He was content to watch and laugh when they played. He would then continue on his own path of being the best wolf he could possibly be.