Long ago in the forest there lived a fox named Frankie. He was the most beautiful fox the forest had ever seen. Yet, for a time, Frankie was unaware of his beauty, and he lived his life like all the others, hunting and playing games in the woods.
One day, while he was playing a game of hide-and-seek with his friends, Frankie passed under the tree branch of an old black crow. When the crow saw Frankie, he was immediately impressed by his beauty, and flew over to where Frankie was hiding.
“Excuse me,” said the crow. “What exactly are you doing?”
“I’m playing hide-and-seek with my friends,” replied Frankie.
“Well, with a coat of fur as beautiful and red as yours, I can’t see any reason to hide it behind a tree!”
“Gee, thanks!” said Frankie, surprised at what the crow had said. “But am I really that beautiful?”
“Oh my, yes!” replied the crow. “I’ve lived in this forest a long time, and I’ve never seen a fox as beautiful as you!”
“Wow!” thought Frankie. “I never knew I was so beautiful!” And he said goodbye to the crow and his friends, and ran home.
When Frankie arrived at his family’s den, he found his mother there, resting peacefully. Frankie laid down beside her and asked, “Mom, am I beautiful?”
“Of course you are, dear. You’re the most beautiful fox that’s ever lived!”
Frankie was amazed. “The crow was right … I really am beautiful!” And he thought long and hard about what the crow and his mother had said.
The next morning, Frankie’s friends came by to see if he wanted to play a game in the woods, but Frankie didn’t want to.
“I don’t feel like playing right now,” he said. “I think I’m going to clean my fur.”
So his friends left and came back later in the day, but Frankie still wasn’t ready to play.
“Maybe tomorrow,” he said, and he went to the lake to look at his reflection in the water.
The following morning, Frankie’s friend Joey came by to see if he wanted to play a game of hide-and-seek in the woods, but Frankie wasn’t interested.
“I’m tired of playing hide-and-seek,” he complained. “Let’s do something else.”
So Joey suggested going hunting for a new secret hideout, but Frankie didn’t like that idea either.
“Nah. I’ll end up getting sticks and leaves caught in my fur.”
So Joey tried one last idea. “We could go running through mud puddles,” he said. “You always want to do that.”
“I would,” replied Frankie, “but water makes my hair curl.”
So Joey left, and all that day Frankie did nothing but admire his shiny red coat.
The next morning, when his friends came by to see if he wanted to go hunting, Frankie wasn’t interested.
“I’m sun bathing today,” he said. “It makes my coat shinier.” And his friends were very confused.
“This isn’t like you,” said one of his friends. “It seems like the only thing that matters to you anymore is your shiny red coat. Why don’t you ever want to play any games?”
“I just don’t want to do anything to ruin the beauty of my fur coat,” replied Frankie.
His friends laughed. “What makes you think you’re any more beautiful than the rest of us?” one of them asked.
“My mom told me. She said I’m the most beautiful fox that ever lived!”
Joey smiled. “Everybody’s Mom says that, Frankie. Why, my mom told me the same thing just the other day.”
“Oh yeah!” cried Frankie. “The old crow I talked to in the woods said I’m the most beautiful fox he’s ever seen!” And Frankie ran into the forest, away from his friends.
The next day, none of Frankie’s friends came by to see him. It was the same the following day, and again the day after that.
At last, Frankie got tired of looking at his reflection in the water and cleaning his fur, so he set out to find his friends. But when he found them, none of them wanted to play with him.
“They act like they’re mad at me” Frankie said to himself. “It’s not my fault I was born this beautiful.” And he sat down by a tree, sad because he had no one to play with.
All of a sudden, Frankie heard a voice from above him in the tree.
“Whooo’s there?” asked the voice, in a deep drawn-out tone.
“My name’s Frankie,” he replied, timidly.
“Hello Frankie. My name’s Oscar the owl. Why do you look so sad?”
“Because all of my friends are mad at me,” he replied.
“Why?” asked the owl. “What have you done?”
“Nothing, really. I think they’re jealous of my beauty.”
“Who said you’re beautiful?” asked the owl, playfully.
“My mom … and an old black crow.”
“I see. And I suppose you told your friends that?”
“Yeah, I did,” said Frankie. “Then they got mad at me.”
“I think I know what the problem is,” remarked the owl.
“Yes. You see Frankie, when you have a gift such as you have, you shouldn’t gloat about it to your friends because that makes them feel bad. We all have gifts. One of your friends might be a really good hunter or a great swimmer. Perhaps another is able to jump really high or run really fast. Our gifts should bring joy to ourselves and those around us. And they should never get in the way of our relationships.
“It’s our relationships that are most important in life,” continued the owl. “Having a shiny red coat doesn’t make you better than anybody else.”
Frankie smiled. “You’re right, Oscar! That is what’s most important! I have to go find my friends and apologize for the way I’ve been acting. Thank you so much for your help!”
“You’re welcome, Frankie.”
And so Frankie found his friends and told them about the owl and the old black crow, and he shared with them the lessons he had learned. Soon his life was back to normal, and he no longer spent his days admiring his shiny red coat.
“We all have gifts,” he would sometimes say to his friends. “But the greatest gift of all is each other.”
Excerpted from Shine Like the Sun: A Collection of Children’s Stories by Adam Soto