Stories connect us to the time-tested wisdom of the world's peoples--and teach spiritual and moral lessons we want to pass on to our kids. Each week, Beliefnet will present a spiritual story from a different faith tradition, followed by simple activities that bring the message home. We invite you to share the stories with your children, do the activities together, and make "Teaching Tales" a joyous part of family life.

Reprinted with permission from "How the Children Became Stars" by Aaron Zerah, published by Sorin Books.

Ijapa the tortoise went on a long walk. He walked very far and got very tired. Ijapa was very hungry too.

Ijapa came to the village where Ojola, the boa snake, lived. Ijapa thought, "I am so hungry, I will stop here. Ojola will surely give me food to eat."

Ijapa went to Ojola's house and Ojola welcomed him. They sat in the cool house and talked. Ijapa smelled food cooking in the other part of the house. Ojola said, "Come, let us get ready to eat together."

Ijapa went outside to prepare for the meal. When he came back, the food was placed in the center of the house and Ijapa smelled the aroma. But the tortoise could not reach the food. The snake was coiled all around it. Ijapa got more and more hungry.

Ojola the snake said, "Come sit with me and eat."

Ijapa said, "I would be very happy to sit and eat. But Ojola, why are you surrounding the meal?"

Ojola replied, "This is the way of the snakes. When we eat, we sit around the food like this." Ojola ate and ate of the food, but Ijapa could not get it at all. Ojola finished eating at last. He said to Ijapa, "How good it is to eat with a friend."

Ijapa was even hungrier after the meal than when he came to Ojola's house. He felt much in his heart about what happened.

Ijapa decided to invite Ojola to his house for a meal on a feast day. Ijapa's wife prepared all the foods and Ijapa went out to weave a long tail for himself out of grass. He stuck it on with tree gum.

Ojola arrived to share the feast. The tortoise welcomed him and said, "You have come a long way and you are hungry." Ojola went to wash at a spring and when he returned to Ijapa's house, he saw Ijapa was already eating. Ijapa had coiled his long grass tail all around the food. Ojola could not get near enough to eat. Ijapa heartily ate the food.

Around and around Ojola went. He could not get to the food. "Ijapa," the snake said, "how is it that you used to be so short and now you are so very long?"

"One person learns from another," Ijapa said.

Bringing It Home

To Do This Week

  • Tell a story about when someone did not share with you. How did you feel? Tell a story about when you didn't share with someone else. How did you feel then?
  • Pretend you are the characters in this story. How would you respond to the other not sharing food?
  • Imagine you are a friend of both Ijapa and Ojola. What would you say to them?
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