Originally published by Robert Beisert at fortcollinsprogram.robert-beisert.com

Patterns for Kids: The Little Red Hen

I write about programming patterns quite a bit, but there are many other places where patterns are important. For much of human history, these patterns have been presented in myths and fables, to instruct the young and the less-inquisitive in virtues and mental patterns that best serve and exemplify their society. We in the West have forgotten many of these myths, but I think it useful to help bring them back to the mental foreground.

I present to you now the story of the Little Red Hen.

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Once upon a time, there was a little red hen who lived on a farm with her friends, the dog, the cat, and the horse.

Rhode-Island-Red-Hen

While the little red hen was out pecking at the ground, looking for worms (EWW), she found some seeds! The little red hen thought to herself, “If I plant these seeds and they grow up, I can make a delicious cake!” So she asked her friends, “Who will help me plant these seeds?”

“Not I”, said the dog.

“Not I”, said the cat.

“Not I”, said the horse.

Then I will,” said the little red hen. And she did.

She planted the seeds carefully all in a row. But seeds need water to grow, so the little red hen asked her friends, “Who will help me water the seeds?”

“Not I”, said the dog.

“Not I”, said the cat.

“Not I”, said the horse.

Then I will,” said the little red hen. And she did. wheat-field-26

She watered the seeds every day, and they grew up into a field of beautiful golden wheat. Now she needed to cut the wheat down, so she asked her friends, “Who will help me harvest the wheat?”

“Not I”, said the dog.

“Not I”, said the cat.

“Not I”, said the horse.

Then I will,” said the little red hen. And she did.

She got all the wheat out of the field all by herself. It was hard work, but she had a bunch of wheat she needed to make into flour. So she asked her friends, “Who will help me grind the wheat into flour?”

“Not I”, said the dog.

“Not I”, said the cat.

“Not I”, said the horse.

Then I will,” said the little red hen. And she did. 2e7594c88775e381e18abfd001bb6938

She ground the wheat all up into a big sack of flour, and carried it into the kitchen. Then she asked her friends, “Who will help me make a cake?”

“Not I”, said the dog.

“Not I”, said the cat.

“Not I”, said the horse.

Then I will,” said the little red hen. And she did.

She put all the ingredients into the bowl, mixed it all up with her flour, and baked a delicious chocolate cake. Everyone on the farm could smell the wonderful cake, and their mouths started to water as they thought of how it must taste. When it was done, the little red hen asked her friends, “Who will help me EAT this cake?”

“I will!” said the dog.

“I will!” said the cat.

“I will!” said the horse.

The hen looked at her friends and said, “You did not help me plant the seeds. You did not help me water the seeds. You did not help me cut the wheat. You did not help me grind the flour. You did not help me bake the cake. So, I will.” And the little red hen ate the cake that she had baked all by herself.Chocolate-cake-2

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This is a pattern story, very clearly. The dog didn’t want to work. The cat didn’t want to work. The horse didn’t want to work. But the Little Red Hen said “I will”, and she did. In the end, she was able to enjoy the cake that she made all by herself, while her lazy friends had to watch.

If the dog, the cat, and the horse had helped the hen at any point, do you think they would have gotten some cake? Absolutely. But they didn’t want to help – they just wanted to play while someone else worked. They didn’t do anything to earn the cake, so they didn’t deserve to get any cake.

What does that mean, kids? If you want something, you have to do the work. When everyone else is saying, “Not I”, you have to say “Then I will”, and then you have to actually do it.

Of course, the political implications of this fable are very clear. They’re so clear that even a child can understand. And, when they see the same pattern in politics when they grow up, they will be able to respond.

Patterns are everywhere, if you only have eyes to see them.

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