Once upon a time, the elephant and the mouse were talking about being friends.
Remember when our fathers were together with Noah and all the others. We were shipmates, living close one to the other in the ark. Why have we drifted so far apart over the centuries?
Well, said the elephant, to be perfectly frank, much of the time Ive hardly given you any thought at all. You are rather small and easy to overlook.
Sometimes precious things come in small packages, said the mouse. I know youre big, but bigness doesnt mean better. Dont get me wrong I dont mean to imply youre any less. Its just a matter of equal dignity for all us animals.
Careful not to tread on the mouse, who, perhaps imprudently, was edging a little too close for comfort, the elephant retorted, Sometimes you make me nervous, especially when you get near a sensitive place, like my nose. I know it must seem strange to you, but thats the way I am!
The mouse found it hard to believe that he could ever make the elephant nervous, but, the mouse thought, Part of being friends is believing what your friend says.
To reciprocate the mouses trust and good will, the elephant made a generous offer, Why dont you climb up and Ill give you a ride. The view from my back is vast and greater than from where you are on the ground.
What a tempting offer it was, the mouse astride the elephant, but how incongruous too. Maybe once or twice, just for a minute, said the mouse gently, but I have my proper place and perspective, and I must mind them.
Another part of being friends, reflected the elephant, is to spend more time together, perhaps even living in the same neighborhood.
The mouse, who lived in a rather large old house, indicated that he was reasonably comfortable, even though traps were often set for him.
You can hardly expect me to move into your burrows with you, said the elephant.
Nor vice versa, said the mouse, for I fear I would be lost with you. Besides, Id barely be noticed, while at home Im known to the landlord and my friends.
The elephant was becoming increasingly saddened by the turn the conversation was taking, and the mouse was too.
Is there no way, then, the elephant said, for us to share more of our lives with each other?
Friendship is not a matter of physical proximity, said the mouse. In fact, for me that always remains rather dangerous. But there are other ways to be close. For example, the way were talking to one another right now.
Ah, sighed the elephant, how I wish that there werent such differences between us. But, dont we have a lot in common too? Hopes, fears, sufferings and sometimes even common enemies?
Indeed, said the mouse in fond farewell, and please God there will be other occasions for us to get together.
How do an elephant and a mouse become close friends? Carefully!
Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA