Fables are told so often, I’m sure you’ve heard this story. But in the process of retelling it countless times, the details aren’t always the same. You may have heard it differently, but I’m pretty sure this is the way it went down.
Harry and Terry were high school classmates, in the same grade but with vastly different skills.
Harry was quick as a wink and fast as lightning. When the bell rang, Harry had five minutes to get to the next class, which was plenty of time to stop at the restroom and visit with friends. With the ding-dong of the bell, he raced for the door on the ding and slipped into his seat on the dong. He was fast.
Terry was already there with his textbook open, ready for the next lesson. How this happened was a mystery, because Terry was as slow as Harry was fast. Terry walked slow and talked slow. In fact, everything about Terry moved at a crawl.
Did I mention that Harry and Terry had vastly different skills? They were nothing alike.
You see Harry was a rabbit who could run on his hind legs as fast as on all four. But Terry suffered from a speed deficiency. He was a turtle who had never grown past the crawling stage.
One day in the cafeteria, Harry said, “Terry, you’re so slow, it’s a wonder you ever get anything done.”
“Oh . . . I . . . don’t . . . know.” Terry’s words flowed as slow as molasses in the winter. “My . . . homework . . . is . . . always . . . done . . . on . . . time.”
“Well excuse me,” Harry said. “I’ve only missed one assignment.” He hesitated. “Okay, maybe it was three. I stay so busy, I sometimes lose track of time. But I’m faster than you, that’s for sure.”
That discussion led to the big race.
Harry boasted that he could do a fifty-yard sprint in five seconds. He had never timed himself, but he was pretty sure he could. Terry wasn’t impressed. He said they should make it five miles, so that’s what they did. At dawn the next morning, they were off.
Harry zipped around the corner and down the street. At the intersection he turned to look back. That slow turtle was nowhere in sight. Harry had flown by so fast, he hadn’t noticed before, but there was McDonald’s, over on the right. Now everybody knows you shouldn’t work on an empty stomach, so he went for the big breakfast. Pancakes, eggs, and sausage.
Thirty minutes later, Harry was back on the street.
Still no sign of Terry, so he put in his ear buds and jogged to the beat of the music. At the top of the hill, he looked back down the street. Nobody there, so he kept on jogging, singing, “Ain’t no mountain high enough.” But around the next bend, he stopped, unable to believe what he was seeing. There was Terry, about a half mile ahead.
Harry took off, lickety-split. When he caught up, he was running circles around the turtle when his cell phone rang. Now everybody knows, you’re never supposed to be running while texting or talking on the phone. That’s what causes wrecks. So Harry had to pull off to the side and answer the call.
You know how it is when you get to talking with a friend.
One thought leads to another. One joke leads to an even funnier story. When the call ended, Harry wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but it must have been a long while. Did that turtle have roller skates? A mile down the road, he finally caught up with the turtle. This time he kept running until he reached the top of the hill. He looked back and couldn’t see Terry anywhere.
Harry had been running so hard for so long, he needed to catch his breath.
As he raced down restaurant row, the smell of food made him realize, he hadn’t had lunch. So he stopped for a burger, fries, and a strawberry milkshake. Now everybody knows you’re not supposed to run on a full stomach, so he leaned back in the padded seat, closed his eyes and listened to the music.
And that’s how he lost the race.
He was fast but not fast enough to make up the time that had been used for food and fun.
“After a man puts his hand to the plow,” Jesus said, “he is not fit for the Kingdom of God if he keeps looking back.” — Luke 9:62