Raman looked at the food in his lunch box and made a face. "Idli and chutney and chutney and idli again," he said to his friend Bhim."
Bhim gave his own lunch a critical look and frowned. "You think that's bad," he said, "I've got bread and jam again. It's the third time this week!"
They pushed the food aside. "We can get something at the burger place after school," Raman said. They concentrated on studying for their English test instead of eating. English was next period, and Mr. Frank had a reputation for giving difficult tests. When the bell rang, they dropped their uneaten lunches into the garbage. Mr. Frank was standing nearby. "Not hungry, guys?" he asked. They shook their heads and hurried off to class.
When the test was over, there were still ten minutes left in the period. Mr. Frank stood at the front of the class. "Before you leave today," he said, leaning against the desk, "I'd like to share an old African folktale with you. I think you'll find this one interesting. It's called 'Why the Sky Is Far Away'"
Long ago the sky was close to the Earth. Men and women did not have to plant their own food. Instead, when they were hungry, they just reached up and broke off a piece of the sky to eat. Sometimes the sky tasted like ripe bananas. Other times it tasted like roasted potatoes. The sky was always delicious.
People spent their time making beautiful cloth. They painted beautiful pictures and sang songs at night. The grand king, Oba, had a wonderful palace. His servants made beautiful shapes out of pieces of sky.
Many people in the kingdom did not use the gift of the sky wisely. When they took more than they could eat, the sky became angry. Some people threw the extra pieces into the garbage.
Early one morning the angry sky turned dark. Black clouds hung over the land and a great sky voice said to all the people, "You are wasting my gift of food. Do not take more than you can eat. I don't want to see pieces of me in the garbage anymore or I will take my gift away."
The king and the people trembled with fear. King Oba said, "Let's be careful about how much food we take." For a long time, all the people were careful.
But one man named Adami wasn't careful. At festival time, he took so many delicious pieces of sky that he couldn't eat them all. He knew he must not throw them away.
He tried to give the pieces to his wife. "Here, wife," Adami said. "You eat the rest."
"I can't," Adami's wife said. "I'm too full."
Adami asked all his children to help him eat the delicious pieces of sky, but the children couldn't eat one more bite. So Adami decided to try to hide the pieces at the bottom of the garbage pile.
Suddenly, the sky became angry and the clouds turned black. "You have wasted my gift of food again," yelled the sky.
"This time I will go away so you cannot waste me anymore."
All of the people cried, "What will we eat? We might starve!"
The sky said, "You will have to learn how to plant crops in the ground and hunt in the forests. If you work hard, you may learn not to waste the gifts of nature."
Everyone watched as the sky sailed away. From that time on, they worked hard to grow their food and cook their meals. They always tried to remember not to waste the gifts of nature.
The bell rang for the next period. "That's the end," Mr. Frank said, smiling. He looked at Raman and Bhim.
"What did you think of the story?" he asked. They slouched in their chairs and looked apologetic.
"We get the message," they said, smiling. "No more lunches in the garbage!"