The Good Samaritan Retold
Posted on June 4, 2016 | Posted by Annie Saunders
“‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this–you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
–Mark 12: 29-31
Once there was a badger. He was average, followed the laws of nature accordingly and was a right good badger, never considered going above what was expected of him. He had no family, but was seemingly content to live alone.
It was going to be a furious cold winter, and he was busying himself by storing food and setting up a warm nest. He lined his burrow with bird’s feathers and down; a cozy home indeed. When the mouth of winter finally bit into the earth, it frosted the land with heavy snows. However, the badger was warm, well prepared, and rode out the winter’s storms until spring.
One morning, Badger poked his head out and saw the buddings of new life. Spring had come! Flowers were raising unsteady heads to the sun, birds were aloft in song. He left his home, went out to enjoy the fresh air, and started foraging once again. He came to the riverbank, which was just starting to melt away its icings, and took a deep breath of pine and crocuses. He lowered his head into the river and took two big glorious gulps. Then something caught his eye.
A tawny-colored figure lay strewn out on the opposite side of the river. Curious as to what this object was, he swam across, dodging shards of ice in his way. He trudged onto the bank, shook himself off, and went to inspect the object. His nose scrunched up in distaste. He recognized that scent, and could now clearly see the object was a coyote.
Now, coyotes and badgers are mortal enemies. The two can spend years, feuding. One attacks the other, one steals the other’s food or burrow, and so on. Both are too stubborn and clever for their own good, they constantly try to outwit the other. Never has there been an allegiance between a badger and a coyote.
The coyote died of hypothermia. The badger suspected it was because the dumb git decided to cross the river while it was iced over and fell in unexpectedly. Either he managed to get himself to shore before he froze to death, or the defrosted river’s tide brought his body to lay rest here.
The badger was half tempted to leave the corpse behind and move on with his life. He’s had a lifetime of rows with the mongrels, always thought coyotes to be very arrogant. To him, they seemed to believe they were too good to take the time to construct a proper winter’s burrow. Badger thought it served the coyote right to die the way it had, it was irresponsible and uneducated in the power of winter’s rage. It was unprepared, wandering about in a snowstorm, and look where it got it!
Even so, Badger couldn’t leave the carcass for some reason—a strange prodding sensation moved him to empathy. He glanced about, found a soft patch of soil, and with his powerful paws started to dig. He dug until the riverside sand hardened to bedrock, then he came over to the coyote again. Badger carefully closed its eyes, took a hold of it by the tail and gingerly dragged it to the freshly dug hole. Badger nudged the body over, picked a crocus and tossed it on top of the coyote. Then, with the mound of dirt he had unearthed he shoved back into the grave, covering the corpse below entirely. He patted down the dirt until it was solid and nodded at his handiwork. He was about to set out, when once again, something tawny-colored caught his eye.
Another coyote had been watching him throughout his little ceremony. She approached the badger cautiously from the brush, for it was a well-known fact amongst coyotes that badgers were hot tempered, and just as likely to clamp down onto your hind-leg as look at you. Therefore, she bowed her head respectfully and three pups tumbled out to her side, looking at the badger with wide eyes.
The she-coyote spoke softly, forlornly, “That was my husband. He went out to search for food during a storm because we didn’t store enough…he never returned and we nearly starved. I feared the worst, but prayed he found another burrow to sit through the winter in…I had prayed he kicked out a badger and took refuge in its home,” her brown eyes fluttered away, ashamedly. Badger glanced back at the grave, and then eyed the pups thoughtfully.
“Come with me,” he grunted, “I’ll teach you how to correctly make your own burrow and show you all the necessary essentials you’ll need to successfully survive the winter.” She-coyote hesitated. Badger didn’t look back as he waded into the river and called out, “You always have the choice to refuse kindness. I just hope that won’t be the case today, even if the kindness comes from an old fart like me.”
She-coyote took her pups and resolved to follow Badger.
He did all he promised for her that spring, and more. He looked after her children while she went to hunt, or even when she just needed a break. He helped her dig her own home (a den right next-door to his) and showed her how to line the walls with bird’s down. She was an excellent student and trustingly took his lessons to heart. She even asked him to teach her pups some things, and he did so happily.
Yet, the odd-pair didn’t stop there.
They went out to other enemies, like porcupines, rabbits, mice, cougars, birds, owls, even bears. They gave their help and kindness to all, willing and unwilling. From taking sick animals to the riverbank to drink, to saving a cub from a bear trap–then tending his wounds. They especially helped the grieving. The forest became a community, and come next winter, there were far fewer tragedies. The badger and the she-coyote remained close. She never re-married and he never took a mate, but in each other, in their friendship, Badger finally had family.
Long past the time of Badger and She-coyote, generations of forest animals told this story as a reminder, and example, on how we should treat others. For compassion comes in all forms, and can be found in all places.