It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and Leonard the leopard was looking for someone to play with.
As he walked along the soft floor of the jungle, he came across an iguana blending in on a tree.
“Oh!” Leonard said. “I almost didn’t see you there, Mr. Iguana. You blend in so well.”
The iguana said nothing. Leonard swore he could see him trembling!
“Is everything alright?” Leonard asked.
“Pl—please don’t eat me,” was all the iguana said.
“Eat you?” Leonard said. “I don’t want to eat you! I’m just looking for someone to play with.”
“It’s just that you have such large teeth, and such large claws,” the iguana said, beginning to inch up the tree. “I don’t think I would like to play with you.”
And with that, the iguana scurried up the tree and out of sight.
Leonard sighed. He knew most of the creatures in the jungle were afraid of him because of his teeth and claws. It made for an awfully lonely life.
Leonard continued to walk along in the jungle, until he came across a sloth hanging from a tree branch.
“Hello, Ms. Sloth!” Leonard said. “Would you like to play with me?”
Ms. Sloth tried to move away quickly, but, well, she was rather slow.
“Ohh noooo,” Ms. Sloth began. “I dooo not want to play with youuu. Youurr teeth are soooo big, and your claws soooo sharp.”
Leonard sighed and moved on, leaving Ms. Sloth still trying to hurry higher up into the tree.
“It’s not fair, Leonard said to himself. “No one will play with me just because of the way I look. What if they had long teeth and sharp claws? Then, no one would want to play with them!”
“You’re quite right!”
Starled, Leonard leapt into the air. “ARGHHH!!”
A monkey had dropped down from a tree, holding onto a branch with his tail.
“You scared me!” Leonard said, paw to his chest.
“Quite like you’ve been scaring everyone in the jungle,” the monkey laughed, hopping to the ground.
His eyes were big and golden, and something about him made him seem incredibly wise.
“I don’t mean to scare them,” Leonard said, sighing. “But they judge me before they know me.”
“They do, the monkey agreed. “Which is quite a shame. They do the same to Sally the spider.”
The monkey held out his hand, and into it dropped a large, fat spider with a large, red mark.
Leonard tried hard not to flinch. He wasn’t quite a fan of spiders.
The monkey eyed him shrewdly. “You see,” he said, clearly having noticed Leonard’s small flinch. “We all have learning to do, don’t we?”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Spider,” Leonard began.
“Ms., actually,” the black widow quickly corrected.
“Ms. Spider—” Leonard continued. “I didn’t mean to—”
“Flinch?” she said, laughing and pointing at him with one of her legs. “That’s ok, I’m used to it.”
“But that’s not fair,” Leonard persisted. “We shouldn’t all be scared of you!”
“No, they shouldn’t be,” she agreed. “But, I’ve worked for a long time to not care what other animals think of me. And let me tell you,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a whole lot better!”
“Really?” Leonard said, tilting his head.
“Oh, yes,” the black widow continued. “Once you stop caring about what everyone else thinks, you have so much more time to enjoy this beautiful world!” she said, lifting her two front legs to the sky. “There’s so much to see, so much to do, I don’t have any time to worry about anyone who doesn’t like me—especially if they don’t know me.”
“Hmm,” Leonard the leopard thought. “That sounds kind of difficult.”
“Oh, it’s not easy!” the black widow laughed. “It’s something you have to work on. It’s normal to wonder what others think. But I promise you, it is so much better to just be yourself! The ones that matter will love you no matter what,” she said with a wink.
“Really?” Leonard asked, smiling.
“Spider’s honor!” the black widow said, raising a leg to her heart and one in the air. “Now, how about this, Mr. Leopard. How about the three of us play a fun game of hide and seek?”
Leonard beamed. “That sounds wonderful.”
And, together, they played into the sunset. Leonard had found friends that loved him for who he was, and would be with him through thick and thin.