One of my favorite books is Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Suess. It is the story of Horton the Elephant who sits faithfully on a bird’s nest in a tree for fifty-one weeks after he promises the mother that he will babysit the egg. The egg, abandoned by its mother, eventually hatches into an “elephant bird” (read the book- I am not doing it justice!).
It is a book about the transformative power of love as well as loyalty and responsibility.
It is also a wish. After Horton hatches this amazing creature, the reader is told “and it should be, it should, it should be like that! Because Horton was faithful! He sat and he sat! He meant what he said…And he said what he meant…And they sent him home happy, One hundred per cent!” We all want to believe that our hard work will be rewarded; That all the blood, sweat, and tears that we pour into our careers, our relationships, and our children will pay off and that we will be one hundred percent happy.
And perhaps it should be like that. But all too often it isn’t. Even the happiness from a great victory can be short lived. I often imagine that the elephant bird goes back home with Horton and is teased because he is different or that even if not teased by others, he himself feels isolated and alone. I imagine that Horton, the dedicated father he has become, stays up late at night worrying about his child’s future. I imagine that Horton’s happiness does not stay at 100% for very long.
What do we do when life does not reward us as we would like or even as we deserve? How do we rise to the next challenge? Part of the answer is actually the first part of Horton Hatches the Egg. Horton shows up. He takes on responsibilities and plugs away even when it is hard. As they say, 90% of success is just showing up.
But another part of the answer is sadly absent from Horton’s tale. Horton sits on the egg alone for 51 weeks. He never asks for help. Perhaps Horton fears that others will not be willing. Perhaps he feels that no one else could do it as well as he does. Perhaps he feels that he will not be living up to his word if he takes even a short break to stretch his legs and see his friends.
Horton makes the mistake that so many of us make- believing that there is only one right way to do things and that only he is capable of doing it. Sometimes the best way to show up is to know when you need a break. Sometimes it’s about delegating. Sometimes it’s about connecting with others who are dealing with similar issues and learning from them. Sometimes showing up means getting help to view things from a different perspective.
Through his love, devotion and dedication to being there, Horton helps to create something beautiful and special. We are all, in our own ways, capable of being Horton. But we shouldn’t have to do it alone.