This is a story that was originally told to me by my maternal grandfather, Robert Isaac Ekundiyo Bright Senior, elder statesman, successful businessman, athlete, visionary. I told my son, Marshal, the story when he asked me my relationship with my grandfather.
One day all of rats called a meeting to discuss what to do about the cat. The cat had killed many rats and they were so afraid to even step foot outside the rat hole that they could no longer go get food. The children were hungry and the entire rat community was suffering.
Many theories were thrown around, the young rats blamed the older rats for not taking care of this before they were born. The older rats complained that the rat government wasn’t doing enough to make sure that all rats shared equally in the available food.
Finally a young rat proposed a daring plan: “Why don’t we just put a bell on the cat?” the young rat asked. “Then we can hear him when he’s coming and run back into the walls where it’s safe. After he leaves, we can just go back out again to finish collecting food!”
Every rat there stood with jaws open and eyes wide.
“That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard!” one rat exclaimed.
“I always knew he was going to be something,” an older female rat told her neighbor.
“He’s always been smart!” the neighbor agreed. She turned to her son, “I don’t see why you can’t be more like that smart young rat over there! He’s doing things! Making something of himself! That’s what I’m talking about!
The rat community was electrified by the suggestion. More ideas were put forth to build upon the original one.
“We should divide hunting parties into Listeners and Collecters,” the rat mayor proposed. “The Listeners can monitor the halls for the cat while Collecters focus on gathering food. That will make each group more efficient rather than every rat having to collect food and listen for the cat!”
“Excellent suggestion Mister Mayor!” a rat council member agreed.
The rats talked for hours about the wonderful things that would happen once the bell was put on the cat’s neck. The community seemed alive for the first time.
Then one older rat raised his hand slowly. “Excuse me,” he said slowly when he was recognized. “But who is going to put the bell on the cat’s neck?”
To this day that question remains unanswered and the rats continue to be eaten by the cat whenever they are caught outside the rat hole.
My addendum: Some rats upon encountering a rat who appears to be better fed and more successful say, “It must be nice to grow up in a house without a cat!”
Other rats upon encountering a rat who appears to be better fed and more successful say, “Hey, they must have put a bell on their cat!” Which rat do you think has the best chance of being successful?
My son, Marshal’s answer: The rats who say they must have put a bell on their cat because they believe it’s possible if you’re willing to take a risk. The other ones think they just have bad luck while some rats have good luck.