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“Not I” Said the Duck- A Children’s Story for Life

Years ago, I heard one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard at a church.  Now, I’m not a big church-goer. I’m not much for the formality of congregations. Still, even if you’re not a big religious person most of us have probably been to church at some point.

On this day, instead of a minister, a member of the congregation spoke.  I was delighted to see that I knew this guy. I’d seen him around town and our kids knew each other.  He was a pretty irreverent guy, born a hippie.  His beard was shaggy from his years traveling with the Grateful Dead. He grew green beans and tomatoes in his backyard, along with the occasional pot plant for medicinal purposes.  Still, he’d grown past his nefarious past and now was among the faithful.  I loved that his life was colorful and his past was slightly checkered.

As I recall, the church was packed as folks settled down for the sermon. He carefully stepped up to the podium said “Today’s scripture is taken from Chapter 1, Verse 3 of…”  He paused, and dramatically lifted up a children’s book and said “The Little Red Hen”.

Chuckles rippled through the congregation, though he maintained his somber expression.  He held up the book and paged through the story the way a teacher reads a book to young children.  Now, many of us know the story of The Little Red Hen.  It’s about a little chicken who wants to plant wheat so he can make bread. He visits the other animals around the barnyard and asks for help “Who will help me plant my wheat?” he asks. “Not I” said the Duck, “Not I” said the Pig, and so on.

Again, he repeats the process when it’s time to weed and to harvest.  But, ultimately the little chicken has to plant, harvest, and bake the bread all by himself.  And, of course, when he sits down to enjoy the fresh bread, all the barnyard animals show up wanting to eat. Silly animals….of course the Little Red Hen wouldn’t let them.

For the congregation that day, the point of the sermon was a warning that if you don’t do the religious work you’re supposed to do, you will not reap the rewards that God has planned for you.  But I have a different interpretation of this story that can speak to anyone- religious or not.

In my interpretation, the Little Red Hen was willing to do whatever work it took to get the bread he wanted.  And for me, the bread is a metaphor for life. If you are willing to do the work and plant the seeds of your life– you can you expect to reap the benefits of having the life you want. And you shouldn’t wait for someone else to do it for you.

Yes, I said it. Having the life you want takes work.  And, I’m not saying that we’re not hard workers- we are. But I question if we are always working at the right things.   Some of us spend many hours at jobs we hate,  in relationships that make us crazy, or just trying to control other people (which we know isn’t possible).

In addition, our lives are also busy and complex. Daily commitments like work, taking care of kids, and paying the bills can get in the way of being fulfilled or happy. We have people who depend on us and love us.  You may be asking yourself ‘who has time to question if we’re happy or not?’

But at the end of the day- all these things wrapped together is the life you have.  This is it.  You are living it every day.  It can either be a life that makes you happy- or one that doesn’t.

Just what would happen if we spent just a few hours a day or week planting and harvesting like the Little Red Hen did? What if we work towards something that makes us happy?

I believe these few hours could be a great journey. We can start with something small like joining a club or making a new friend.  But eventually, we can work towards big things, like living where we want to live, and doing the work we want to do.

Lives that are tailored by us can make us very happy. When it’s exactly what you want, the work is rewarding and life becomes wonderful. So, let’s try these things-

Listen to your heart. Spend some time thinking about your life, and what it will take to make you happy.  Often, we know the answers- we just aren’t listening to that little voice. Be brave, and let that voice speak to you. 

Start with one small changeFor me, it’s writing this blog. For others, it’s taking a class, or for some it might be our reducing commitments to others so you can focus on yourself.  It might be scary- as any change can be. But it also will be rewarding to do one small thing that makes you happy.

Be persistent. Just remember the Little Red Hen asked for help.  When he didn’t get it, he still kept going.  Be persistent, and once you accomplish small things, it’s easier to tackle something bigger.

Lather, Rinse, RepeatLike directions on a shampoo bottle, do this over and over again. Eventually the search for your true happiness will start to settle into your being.  You will change how you think about your life.  Just focus on letting this different way of thinking  become part of you.  It will change you for good.

Be like the Little Red Hen and plant those seeds

Be like the Little Red Hen and plant those seeds

So, be a little Red Hen and start planting.

Share with me your pursuit of your life.  And sign up for my newsletters so you don’t miss updates. What is the small step you’ve taken? I’d love to hear it.


  1. Walker Thornton

    What a great message. And, you’re so right about your interpretation of the story…never thought of it that way. Of course life takes partnerships, but ultimately we are the only person in charge of our own destiny. I love this.

  2. Dawn Biocca

    Great interpretation of this wonderful story. We have to be willing to step outside our comfort zone and do what we need to do to get what we want. No one whats to clean the toilet but we have to do it or … If we want a better life or a changed life then we need to “Just Do It”. It is not always going to be smooth going or easy but if we want it bad enough we will do it. Alan will be retiring in 2014 and we want to have all our cc paid, and build up our savings. I want to build my business so I can contribute to that. I am going to do what ever it takes to get that done so when he retires we can enjoy the time and not be stressed about debit. It can be baby steps and then build upon it. If you are persistent you will get to were you want to be. It is all good.

    • Starly

      This is the ideal awnser. Everyone should read this

  3. Tina

    Wow, I used to love that story growing up.

    It does put things in perspective when you realize you are the only person that can change the outcome of your own life. Choices you make, how hard your willing to work and so on.

    Thanks Virg for always being so encouraging to all your friends.

    • Virginia

      It’s you, my friends who are my inspiration- XO V

  4. Sarah

    I love this and am sharing it with my first class ladies!

  5. enter site

    Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  6. Herminia Buckmaster

    Real great visual appeal on this web site, I’d value it 10 10.


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