At each further stage (harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread), the hen again asks for help from the other animals, but again she gets no assistance.
Finally, the hen has completed her task, and asks who will help her eat the bread. This time, all the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer. However, she declines their help, stating that no one aided her in the preparation work, and eats it with her chicks, leaving none for anyone else.
I had this book as part of my collection growing up and was heavily influenced by it. There is obviously a moral to this story: you can’t benefit from someone else’s labor when you didn’t contribute. It’s been one of my community philosophies and, really, the reason I think I’ve been successful over my career. Sure, I accept help readily from people, but I always think about how I’m going to contribute back when I’m able to. And when I feel I’ve taken more than I’ve earned, I feel guilty.
So I make sure that I spend any free time or resources I have on contributing in one way or another. But I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who exist who – like the farm animals that wouldn’t help the Little Red Hen, but felt entitled to the resulting bread – take advantage of the hard work of others.
As Matt Ridley discusses in one of my favorite books of all time that even the most virtuous person is NOT truly altrustic. Donating time to a food bank does everything from making you feel good to looking good on your resume to opening up the ability for you to meet other charitable people (like-minds) to mate with. Smart farm animals would understand that helping the Little Red Hen along the way would improve their possibility of getting a piece of warm bread at the end.
I don’t believe in Tit-for-Tat thinking, but I also don’t enjoy the level of entitlement I see around me. So when I put my own neck on the line (risk), skin in the game (money) and efforts to making something happen (time), I don’t share the results of it unless others show they are willing to do the same on some level.
I’m with the Little Red Hen on this one. I am happy to share…with those who share with me.