Once a little boy was playing outdoors when he found a caterpillar. Fascited, he picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He then asked his mother if he could keep it. “Yes, so long as you take good care of it,” she replied.
The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put tiny plants inside for the caterpillar to eat, and also some twigs to climb upon. Every day, he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.
One day, the caterpillar climbed up a twig and started acting strangely. Worried, the boy called his mother. With one look, she understood that the caterpillar was making a cocoon. She then explained to her boy how the caterpillar was getting ready to undergo a great change in form.
“But why?,” asked the boy.
“Because it must turn into a butterfly,” said his mother.
The little boy then heard about the changes the caterpillar would go through inside the cocoon. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge.
One day, a small hole appeared in the cocoon. Soon a head appeared. Then the butterfly began to struggle to come out.
The boy was thrilled at first. But as the butterfly kept on struggling to get out, he grew worried. It looked desperate — as if it couldn’t break free, after all.
Very much concerned, the boy now decided to help. He got scissors and snipped near the hole in the cocoon to make it bigger. Very soon, the butterfly emerged.
But what was this? The surprised boy saw a creature with an ugly, swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch eagerly, expecting at any moment, to see it turn into a butterfly with an elegant body and large, beautifully coloured wings.
But that was not to be. The misshapen creature that was neither caterpillar nor butterfly kept crawling about miserably inside the jar, dragging its swollen body. It kept fluttering its wings but was never able to fly…
As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong, his mother took him to his teacher. And from his teacher, the boy learned that the butterfly was in fact, supposed to struggle. When the butterfly struggles to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon, the fluid inside its body is squeezed into its wings. Only after this, the wings are ready for flight.
Without that struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy had meant to help, but it only ended up hurting the butterfly which missed a critical stage in its growth.
As the teacher’s words sank in, the boy realized that all struggles are not bad. Sometimes struggles are exactly what are needed in life. Lifting a heavy burden gives strength, pushing against a firm obstacle helps to generate force, getting over a hurdle imparts ability.
Nothing worthwhile can be achieved without struggle. But something immeasurably more precious comes with the achievement. It is the realization of what one is capable of, what one can do.