Once upon a time, in the lush green woods of Sequaria, lived a young tick named Sarah.  She spent her days climbing the expansive network of branches connecting the oaks, maples and hickories of her forest home.  As with all young ticks, Sarah was an orphan, for as soon as a tick egg is laid, the mother tick latches on to the next warm blooded creature that passes by, never to return.

Sarah was not like the other ticks.  For one thing, Sarah hated the taste of blood.  Her favorite food was the sweet nectar of the maple trees that were plentiful around her home.  The other ticks avoided Sarah because she was different and sometimes this made her lonely.

As Sarah grew older, she watched the other young ticks come and go. They never questioned their destinies.  No one but Sarah seemed to wonder if there was more to life than permanently attaching to a living creature and feeding there until death.  Although Sarah knew what was expected of her, she could not seem to take the step necessary to become like the other ticks.

One day, while perched on a limb in her favorite maple tree, Sarah heard voices.  Two hikers passed below her.

“Stop” the woman said.

“There’s a tick climbing up your pant leg.”

She swiftly grabbed the tick and smashed it on the nearest rock.

“I don’t know why God created ticks in the first place.  They have absolutely no purpose in the world!”

Sarah was horrified.  She had never thought that perhaps her life had no meaning or that she had no purpose in the world simply because she was a tick.  After some serious thought, Sarah decided it was time to find a suitable host.  Only then could she fulfill the destiny appropriate for a tick.

Sarah gathered all her strength and leaped from her branch onto the back of a beautiful golden retriever that was following the hikers.  Once she landed, she fell in love with the comfort of the golden shafts of silky blond fur that surrounded her.  After basking in the warmth of her new home for a little while, she remembered what she was there to do.  Dreading the salty taste of the warm red liquid and the permanent loss of freedom once she was attached, she closed her eyes and bared her fangs.  Just when she was about to pierce the flesh of her host, a tiny brown creature landed by her side.

Startled she said, “Who are you?”

The little creature answered, “My name is Tony and I am a flea.”

Sarah replied “Oh, I’ve heard of fleas before, but I’ve never seen one standing still. You’re supposed to be randomly scurrying about and tormenting this creature.  You’re not supposed to stop and talk to me.”

Tony looked at her smugly and said, “And you, my friend, are supposed to be attached to this creature, unable to talk to me.”

Sarah became quiet.  Tony, sensing her struggle, snuggled up beside her and began telling her his story.

Tony knew early on that he was different from other fleas.  As a young flea, he used to lie in the grass and watch the other fleas scramble about, mindlessly jumping from animal to animal, constantly dodging their host’s frantic attempts to stop their endless torment.  The other fleas seemed to love this dangerous game.   It all seemed so pointless to Tony and he knew there must be more to life.  He attempted many times to convince the other fleas that they did not have to live the way they did, but no one would stop long enough to listen.  He was sure his purpose in being different was to change the way the other fleas lived.

Then one day he decided he could no longer stand being different.  The loneliness was more than he could bear, so he decided to join in and live like the other fleas.  After all, there must something wrong with him because he was the unusual one.  Besides, everyone hated fleas anyway, so what was the point in being different? No one would ever notice or care about a flea.  With these thoughts in mind, he jumped onto a young cocker spaniel who happened to be passing by.  It took so much energy for Tony to jump that he fell fast asleep on the pup’s back.

Later, he awoke, startled that he had traveled so many miles from home.  He climbed to the tip of the dog’s stub of a tail and looked around to see where he was. The pup was stretched out beside a silvery blue lake that mirrored the clear summer sky overhead.  Tony had never seen water before and he was in awe of its beauty and serenity.  He decided to postpone acting like a flea until he could take a closer look at this new world.

After several weeks of being on his own, away from the other fleas, Tony found a peace he had never before experienced.  He finally understood that it was okay to be different.  Although he was in fact a flea, he did not have to “act like a flea.”  The only rules for his life were those he imposed on himself.  He was free to be whatever he wanted and he discovered he loved riding across the country, jumping from host to host, without them even knowing he was there.  He was seeing the world, something few, if any, fleas had ever done before.  Although he met many fleas along his journey, he no longer needed to try and change them.  They were all doing what they needed to do and were where they needed to be.  He was so at peace within himself that it no longer bothered him that he was different.  He enjoyed being different.  He was finally able to love without judging himself or others.

Sarah was intrigued by Tony’s story.  She knew he was speaking to her soul.  She gave him a hug, bid him farewell and thanked him for touching her life.  Sarah knew she was no longer just a tick, she was Sarah.  As she crawled her way back to the woods on the horizon, the only remaining color was yellow on the maple tree of truth that she called home.