Once upon a time, there was a tiny ill mouse who lived in a tiny mouse house with a beautiful garden. When he was feeling particularly well, he would sit in his garden and drink water from a teacup.
One day, while sitting in this way, he felt ill again and went inside. From the window, he could see that he had left his teacup of water in the garden, but he did not feel well enough to go retrieve it. Later in the day, the mouse saw a housefly alight on his teacup and drink the water.
“Even flies must get thirsty,” he thought, and he was happy that the water had been there for the fly to drink.
The next day, the fly returned to where the teacup sat, only to find it empty. Feeling bad for the fly, the little mouse stumbled out to the garden to get the cup, refilled it with water, and set it outside again. That evening, the fly came and drank. Once again, the mouse felt happy for what he had done for the fly.
From that day forward, the mouse would fill his teacup with water every day and place it in the garden, where the fly would stop and drink. Some days he felt very ill indeed, but even then he managed to put out the water for the fly, for he knew that the fly was used to getting his water in this way.
Several years followed, and the mouse died, as all mice do. On the great bus to the afterlife, he sat next to a vole.
“Where are you headed?” asked the vole.
But the mouse didn’t know the answer. “I have been ill for a long time,” he said, “with only one distraction.” He then proceeded to tell the vole about the fly and the water. “I supplied water for that fly for three years,” the mouse concluded.
“But houseflies only live for a day,” the vole replied, “so you must have helped over a thousand flies find water.”
“Yes,” the mouse said, “but it is such a small thing.”
“Not to the flies,” said the vole.
“But do flies even matter?” asked the mouse.
“Do mice?” asked the vole.
“But, I could have pushed myself harder, taken better care of myself, gotten out of my little mouse house and done something truly great,” said the sad mouse. “How do I know if it was enough?”
Just then, the bus stopped, and the driver yelled back, “Mr. Mouse, this is your stop!”
The mouse took a deep breath and stood up.