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in: A Man's Life, Sunday Firesides

April 27, 2019

Sunday Firesides: Against Little Red Hen Culture

I’m sure you remember the story of the Little Red Hen. The hen asks her friends to help her plant and harvest wheat, and they decline. She asks them to grind the wheat into flour, and bake the flour into bread, and they refuse. Then, when the hot, delicious-smelling bread comes out of the oven, all the hen’s friends want a bite. None of them wanted to make the bread, but all of them want to eat it.

The old fable offered a reflection of certain human tendencies back when it was first told, and can tell us something about our culture today.

Everyone wants their children to have a great experience in youth sports, but nobody wants to coach a team.

Everyone wants to be invited to a party, but nobody wants to host one.

Everyone hopes their children learn good things at church, but nobody wants to teach Sunday school.

Everyone wants more civil, honest, and intelligent politics, but nobody wants to run for office.

Everyone wants to eat the “bread” of healthy communities, rich experiences, and a strong society, but nobody wants to make it.

Of course, I’m using “nobody” rhetorically — there are a few hearty souls who do take the initiative in creating the things that they, and others, enjoy consuming. But the number of would-be consumers vastly outweighs the number of creators. The 20% who volunteer, host, and organize cannot make enough bread to feed the 80% who say they’re hungry for it. There are too many people who wait for and expect someone else to step into the breach.

But we should be that “someone else.” In a world of endless takers, we need more committed bakers.