THE IMPORTANCE OF OTHERS
by Paulo Coelho
The solitary ember
Juan always attended Sunday services at his parish. But then he began to find that the
pastor always said the same things, so he stopped going to church.
On a cold winter's night two months later, the pastor paid him a visit.
"He must have come to try to convince me to go back," Juan thought to himself. He
imagined he could not tell the real reason: those boring sermons. He had to find an
excuse, and as he was thinking he pulled two chairs up close to the hearth and began
talking about the weather.
The pastor said nothing. Juan, after some vain attempts to start up a conversation, sat
in silence too. They both sat there without speaking, just looking at the fire for close to
half an hour.
Then the pastor rose, and with the help of a branch that had not yet burned, pulled an
ember aside and placed it far from the fire.
The ember, without enough heat to go on burning, began to go out. Juan quickly
tossed it back into the middle of the fire.
"Good night," said the pastor, rising to leave.
"Good night and many thanks," answered Juan. "No matter how bright it is, an ember
removed from the fire will end up going out quickly. No matter how clever a man may be,
far from his neighbors he will never manage to conserve his heat and his flame. I will be
back at church next Sunday."
Very worried, the mouse saw that the farmer had bought a mousetrap: he was out to
He began to warn all the other animals:
"Careful with the mousetrap! Careful with the mousetrap!"
The hen, hearing his shouts, asked him to be quiet:
"My dear mouse, I know that this a problem for you, but it's not going to have the last
effect on me, so stop making such a fuss!"
The mouse went to talk to the pig, which was annoyed because his nap had been
"There is a mousetrap in the house!"
"I appreciate your concern and I sympathize with you," answered the pig. "So rest
assured you will be in my prayers tonight, but that's the most I can do."
Lonelier than ever, the mouse went to the cow for help.
"My dear mouse, what's that got to do with me? Have you ever seen a cow killed in a
Seeing that no-one was offering any solidarity, the mouse returned to the farmer's
house, hid in his hole and spent the whole night wide awake, afraid that some tragedy was
about to happen.
During the early hours he heard a noise: the mousetrap had caught something!
The farmer's wife went downstairs to see if the mouse had been killed. In the dark she
did not notice that the trap had only caught the tail of a poisonous snake; when she drew
near, she was bitten.
The farmer, hearing his wife screaming, woke up and raced her to the hospital. She was
given the proper treatment and then sent home.
But she still had a fever. Knowing that there is no better remedy for the sick than a
good broth, the farmer killed the hen.
His wife started to recover. As the couple was much loved in the region, all the
neighbors came to visit them. Grateful for such a show of affection, the farmer killed the
pig to serve his friends a hearty meal.
His wife finally recovered, but the treatment was very expensive, so the farmer sent the
cow to the slaughterhouse and used the money from the meat to pay all the medical bills.
The mouse saw all this and thought to himself:
"I warned them well. Wouldn't it have been better if the hen, the pig and the cow had
understood that one's problem puts everyone else in danger?"
copyright by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho