Three little girls passed my house as I swept the front porch. One carried a fist sized rock. “Just killed a snake,” said the tallest, all proud.
“Like this,” said the child with the rock, tossing it down hard and picking it up again. “Smashed his head in.”
“Hmm,” I said. “Lot’a bad bugs’ll be happy about that. They eat ‘em, you know—the snakes do. Grasshoppers. Slugs. Beetles. All sorts of garden pests.”
The trio paused. Came closer.
One day, I told them, I saw a snake in my yard. Narrow fellow, passing in the grass. “Where’re you going, little snake?” I’d asked. The snake paused. Did a graceful U-turn back to my feet, and lifted its head. Its forked tongue darted in and out, tasting my words.
“You’re very pretty, Mr. Garder, with all those lovely stripes …” I crouched low, and the snake and I visited several minutes, both our tongues flapping. I can’t remember all I said—perhaps thanks for its gentle help controlling our yard pests. For not uprooting plants, digging holes, or leaving unsightly droppings. But last of all, I said, “Well, little fellow, I have things to do, and I’m sure you do too. It’s been very nice talking to you.” When I stood, the garter lowered its head and left. The grass barely rippled.
Three faces, half shamed, half excited, gazed up at me. Then the rock dropped. “Let’s go find a snake and TALK to it!” one said.
My friend Jesus taught this best: Sometimes all it takes to get people to change, to drop their rocks, is the truth—wrapped in a story.