One Fourth of July, the Element family was having an argument. Sun, Wind, Earth, and Water were arguing over which of them was most important. They were watching a human family have a picnic at the beach, a few hours before the fireworks. They saw potato salad, and corn on the cob, and lentil salad, and bread, and watermelon, and chocolate chip cookies, and many other good things. And each of them—Sun, Wind, Earth, and Water, wanted to take credit for making all these good things possible.
Sun was feeling pretty proud of how beautiful everything looked in his light. He was pretty proud of himself generally, since several planets revolved around him. He felt himself to be the most important and responsible of the family, and he never hesitated to say so.
“Look what a wonderful job I have done there,” he said. “All that food grew because of my light, and see how my light shines on the people and sparkles on the water. It’s pretty clear that I am the most important and responsible one here.”
“Wait a minute,” protested Water. “Every living thing needs water. It seems to me that I am the most important. If it weren’t for me, nothing on this planet would be alive. I watered the plants that became those foods with my rain, and those people love my beauty. And your light couldn’t sparkle if it weren’t for my wavelets.” She swirled around a little to show off how pretty her colors were.
But then Wind spoke up. “Hey, what about me? If it weren’t for me, nothing here would ever move or grow. The air would stay still. Water wouldn’t be able to move. It would be too hot for things to grow at the equators, and too cold at the poles. People wouldn’t be able to survive. Only because of my work keeping things moving do temperatures stay right for living things.” He puffed up with pride and said, “I am obviously the most important one here.”
But then Earth spoke up too. She said “Now hold on, siblings, what about me? What would happen if there were no soil? Nothing could grow. I have thousands of different kinds of little tiny living things in my soil that help plants grow, like worms and ants. And what would happen if there was no ground? What would the people be sitting on and standing on? Don’t you think I’m important too?” Earth was a little more modest, you see, she didn’t say she was the MOST important one, she just wanted to be appreciated.
Well, they went on like that for some time. Sun shone harder, Wind blew more noisily, Water became quite choppy, and Earth started sending out ants to show just how many there were underground. But then the family on the picnic blanket started saying maybe they should leave if it was going to be this hot and windy and the waves were going to be so big they couldn’t go swimming and the ants were going to eat their picnic.
Then, Sun and Wind and Water and Earth felt embarrassed. They looked at each other and they remembered what the Spirit of Life had taught them way back at the very beginning. It had said:
“Life in this world needs all of us to work together. Without Sun’s energy, Wind could not move and could not carry Water’s rain from the oceans to the land. Without Wind and Water to protect it, life would burn up under Sun’s heat. Without the soil of Earth, many plants and animals, including humans, could not grow. Without me, life will not start. All of us are equally important and equally necessary. This is the way life works: we are all in this together.”
So Sun and Water and Wind and Earth settled back down to working together to make life happen. Pretty soon the family at the beach noticed how beautifully the sun shone down from the sky and how gently the breeze cooled their skin, and how the water sparkled, and how warm and soft the earth was.
And then a child on the picnic blanket spoke. The child said, “Thank you, Sun, for your light that helped this food to grow. Thank you, Wind, for the lovely sound you make in the trees, and for helping me breathe. Thank you, Water, for quenching my thirst when I drink you. Thank you, Earth, for holding me up and for giving us all these good things to eat.” The family of Elements felt very proud of the Fourth of July picnic they had made. And later on the human family had a wonderful time watching fireworks.
And that is the end of that story. Or…is it the beginning?