This is an intriguing story with many applications in contemporary politics. The animals state a case for compassion and justice; the farmer does not care, until he sees a glimmer of self-interest. The result is the same — the tree is saved — so does his motivation make a difference?

There was an old apple tree in a farmer’s garden. It was so old that it had stopped bearing fruit a long time ago. The only purpose it served was to provide shelter to the sparrows, grasshoppers and squirrels in the neighborhood.

One day, the farmer decided to cut the tree down. He felt it had become completely useless. Besides, he wanted to get some furniture made and what better way to ensure the wood supply from the tree? The wood was still strong.

So, taking a sharp axe in his hand, the farmer struck at the roots of the tree.

At once there was great commotion among the many creatures who inhabited the tree. The grasshoppers, the sparrows and the squirrels came out of their dwelling places and hovered around the farmer. “Please sir,” they begged him. “Spare this tree’s life. It is our only home.”

But the farmer only struck harder at the roots. “We promise to sing to you in the afternoons when you toil away. It would lighten your labors so,” entreated the creatures.

But their cries were in vain. The farmer continued his task with single-minded concentration. He was in a hurry to finish off the chopping by afternoon. As he raised his axe one more time, something in the hollow of the tree caught his eye. A beehive. Upon looking closer, the farmer found that it was full of honey. He tasted the honey. Ummmm, heavenly.

Suddenly the farmer realised that the tree was not so useless after all. Its hollow was the ideal place for a beehive to rest. And if he took away the honey now, the bees would make more. They would certainly not abandon such an attractive residence.

“Hey you up there,” he announced as he threw away the axe. “I’m sparing the life of this tree. You can live in peace now.”

The sparrows, grasshoppers and squirrels breathed deep sighs of relief. What a blessing that the farmer had found something of use to him in the tree! After all, it was the only reason the tree was still standing.

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