I know a number of you read my Pastor’s Corner this week, about seeing an ‘apapane, so you’re all prepared for a story about what kind of creature this week?
This story is, in fact, about…
This mongoose lived right near a church, much like this one. In fact, he lived in a little hole underneath the roof beams, kind of like that hole right over there where a mongoose lives.
In any case, living outside the church the way he did, he had plenty of opportunity to hear the Scriptures read. One day, he was deeply impressed by a reading of Jesus’ words during the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth.” I don’t know why those words, in particular, made such an impact, but he determined to become salt, as Jesus said.
I’m afraid he had a rather literal turn of mind.
Because he started out by searching for salt. Mongooses, as a rule, do not have salt shakers in their burrows. He managed to find a paper salt packet that somebody had dropped from their carry-out tray, and set out to open it and eat it.
Have any of you ever eaten just plain salt?
It’s pretty unpleasant, isn’t it?
This mongoose didn’t like it much either. In fact, he had to go drink a sizable amount of the Wailuku River before he could taste anything but salt. All in all, it was pretty nasty.
He didn’t give up, though. If the salt wasn’t supposed to be eaten, he thought, maybe it’s supposed to be on the outside. So he set out to re-create an ancient way of harvesting salt: by taking sea water, letting it sit in the sun, and gathering the salt as the water evaporated away. But the mongoose wouldn’t use a hollowed stone; he’d use his own fur.
So he took a swim in Hilo Bay, which he didn’t like very much, and then climbed up on shore to let the sun dry his fur.
The problem was that this was Hilo, and as soon as he came out of the water, the clouds rolled in and hid the sun, leaving the mongoose wet, shivering, and unhappy for quite a long time.
Eventually, just as his teeth stopped chattering, the clouds parted and the sun beamed through. At last, he could dry his fur, and the water steamed gently away leaving the salt crystals behind.
It turns out that if you’re a mongoose, it’s really uncomfortable to have salt crystals in your fur and rubbing your skin, so the poor creature returned to the Wailuku River for another bath (this time in fresh water). As he emerged, the clouds rolled in again and drenched him further with rain, leaving him cold, wet, and completely discouraged.
So he did what he probably should have done in the first place. He went to visit his grandmother.
She spent the first part of his visit carefully grooming his fur, which was suffering from all these salt baths and rain, while he poured out his story. “How am I going to become salt?” he moaned.
Grandmother thought about this for a bit, and then said, “When you’re not eating a whole packet of it, salt makes things taste better, doesn’t it?”
The mongoose thought it did, though with the memory of the salt packet still in his mouth he was less sure than he might have been.
“Well, if salt makes things better, then perhaps that’s what you could do. You make my life better every time you see me, every time you talk to me. You’re kind of like salt that increases my happiness rather than dazzles my taste buds.”
The younger mongoose just listened.
“You just keep making my life better, grandson, and make your family’s lives better, and your friends lives better. That will make you salt; the very best salt there is.”
You are the salt of the earth.
Photo by Tony Hisgett, used by permission under Creative Commons license.