But this story – as the title shows – is not only about Brian. As he was growing up, he made some friends, like Ben, the Bunny, Hooey, the baby owl, and Ted, who wasn’t a fish, but a frog. All three of them loved the little hedgehog very-very much. It was no wonder, because Brian did everything they asked him to do.
If some fallen apples got stuck on his spikes, Ben ate all of them. And if he found a worm in one of the apples, he whistled for Brian – it is well known that he could whistle well from eating carrots – and sent the treat over to Hooey, with Brian.
If something needed to be moved, even heavy things, Ted called the hedgehog, too. And they asked Brian to deliver their messages, whenever they were too lazy to meet each other.
The little hedgehog, because he loved his friends, helped them every time; gave away all his apples, moved the heavy things on his back, and delivered the messages. He thought this is why his friends loved him. However, after a while, the little hedgehog became more and more exhausted and tired, and he didn’t have any time left to eat enough and get strong for the long winter’s sleep.
His mother watched how his son runs errands all the time, and doesn’t grow or get stronger, on the contrary, he was getting thinner and weaker. She was very worried, so one afternoon, she asked Brian:
“Darling, why don’t you eat enough? We have to get ready for winter, if you don’t get stronger, you won’t make it through the long winter’s sleep.”
“But mum, I don’t have time” said Brian “I have to help my friends.”
“And what is it they need help with, that’s more important than eating well and sleeping?” asked his mother.
“Well sometimes, this, sometimes that…There is always something I have to help with” replied Brian. “For example, I help Ben by giving him the fallen apples. And then, I run to Hooey with the worms. Then, I help Ted moving the heavy leaves from one pond, to another.”
“Tell me, are those things really more important than your own health?” asked his mum.
“No” answered Brian. “But I’m afraid to say ‘no’ when they ask.”
“And why is that, Sweetie?” wondered his mother.
“Because they will not love me if I tell them no” he said.
“I see” was all his mother said, smiling.
The next day, the four friends played together, out by the river. Brian, Hooey, and Ted threw hoops, aiming at Brian’s back. Whenever a hoop fell on a spike, they laughed, and Brian laughed with them.
His mother was walking by. She had a sudden idea and went over to them:
“Good Morning, Mama Hedgehog!” greeted her the little animals.
“Can I ask you something?” said Brian’s mother.
“Of course” everyone replied, all at once.
“Can you tell me why you love Brian? He doesn’t quite know the reason.”
“Well, I love him, because I have so much fun with him” replied Ted, “he is so funny every time he moves that cute little head of his, whenever he is happy.”
“Yes” interrupted the bunny. “And he has a very-very kind heart. He always gives me his apples. Even if he has none left for himself.”
“And he is sooo smart” added Hooey. “He can give me good advice every time I need it.”
“Really?” asked Brian, with surprise.
“Yes, of course” said the others.
“So you don’t love because I do everything you ask?”
“We love you for that too, but that’s not the most important.”
“So if I were to say ‘no’ from time to time, would you guys love me anyway?”
“But we are friends. Of course we would” they answered.
From that day on, Brian only helped his friends, when he really had time for it, and he wasn’t afraid to say ‘no’ if he had something else to do. Because this is what friendship means. Help and support each other, but leave someone be, if that’s what they need.
Did it ever happen with you, that you were afraid to say ‘no’ to something?
What was it?
How did you feel then?