Have you heard the legend of how the two bears were turned into stone because they didn’t get along? According to Wenatchi Indian tradition, the feature we know and love as Saddle Rock has a fascinating folklore. If you don’t know the whole tale, it is well worth your time to stop by the museum and ask for a story hour (their bookstore has a great book about it as well). Not only is it part of our landscape heritage here in Wenatchee, but the fable also delivers a powerful lesson in community: united we stand, and peaceful coexistence is the best way for us to thrive.
In the story, there are two bears who can’t seem to get along in the house of the chief. The first is a hard-working black bear who cheerfully and responsibly completes her work; the other is a lazy grizzly who continually wakes up late and produces less-than-adequate meals for the chief. There is constant bickering between the two bruins, and everyone in the village suffers due to their loud arguments and angry altercations.
One day, the Wise Coyote has had enough of the two bears and turns them both into stone. Apparently they had ignored his warnings, and the Coyote finally resorted to a more permanent solution. If you look hard enough at Saddle Rock, you’ll see them facing one another, mouths wide open in protest.
Every time I tell the story to visitors, they ask, “What? Even the black bear gets turned into stone? But she worked so hard, and was so good!” As unfair as it seems, to the storytellers (who were part of an intricate, interdependent community), peaceable coexistence is every bit as importance as industry—perhaps even more. In other words, you can be great at what you do, but if you don’t get along well with others, you aren’t much good to your community.
A lot can be gained from considering this wisdom. Have you seen children who haven’t learned much about cooperation? Have you heard adults encourage their youngsters to be tougher, faster, better, but not always kinder? Perhaps we spend too much time focusing on individual strengths, while losing sight of the value in kind words, empathy and working as a team.
Not long ago I watched a young boy get trampled by his classmates on a multi-school field trip. Anxious to get to their goal, the entire third-grade class knocked him down and crushed him underfoot. He was huddled in a heap, covering his head with his hands, waiting for the stampede to subside. My colleague, who was closer to the scene, intervened and made everyone stop while he got up and she inspected him for injuries. Fortunately, he had no broken bones, but I can only imagine how his heart felt. With great alarm, she admonished the children to care for each other and think of how our actions affect one another. As we walked away with heavy hearts, we wondered: Can’t we do better as a society? What will it take for parents, teachers, and the community to show our children that being first isn’t as important as being kind?
Ultimately, it is up to each one of us to live as examples to our young people. If they have great role models to emulate, perhaps it won’t be long until students are more likely to be seen holding the door for one another than pushing each other down. We just have to show them what that looks like. It shouldn’t be too hard — especially since every time we look up, we have a constant reminder of what happens to those who can’t seem to stop fighting.
Anni Hisey operates Academic Asociates Learning Center and Joyful Scholars Montessori Elementary. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org