The Bird and the Ant: A Rebel’s Story

Theaters across the U.S. have made good money from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Audiences have flocked to see this film about a fictional ragtag team setting out to save the Rebellion. Yet few know about a moving story shared by a rebel not from a galaxy far, far away, but from Xinjiang, China. Rebiya Kadeer, a Uyghur civil rights activist, shared a story about a bird and a little ant at the beginning of her 2009 book, Dragon Fighter: One Woman’s Epic Struggle for Peace with ChinaThis story has been reproduced below. Enjoy!

When I was a little girl, my father told me a fable that has accompanied me throughout my life and moves me deeply every time I remember it. My father said, “This is the fable of a little ant that lived in the wilderness. One day, the ant met a bird.

            “’Where are you going?’ asked the bird.

            “’I’m going to the west,’ replied the ant and kept moving.

            “’How can you do that? There are high mountains and turbulent rivers along the way.’

            “’I can climb over the mountains and swim through the rivers.’

            “’But you’ll certainly be killed.’

            “’Even if a large wave should come along, I can find a piece of wood and cling to it,’ replied the ant, and kept walking.

            “Many years later” – and here in his storytelling my father’s voice would deepen to draw in our attention even more – “the same bird was building a nest in a tree, somewhere far away in a place where he had wandered. Suddenly, an army of ants climbed into the tree and began to aggressively dismantle the nest. The poor bird was about to escape into the sky when one of the ants spoke to him.

            “’Hello, my friend. You don’t need to fly away. I’ll tell my people to leave your nest alone.’

            “The bird was more than surprised. ‘Who are you? How do you know me?’

            “’Don’t you remember me from long ago, in a place far way from here, when we spoke to each other?’

            “Pausing, then filling with admiration for the ant, the bird replied,

‘Well, yes, I do remember. And now you’ve taught me that we each have the power to unlock the secrets of the world, as long as we have courage and self-confidence.’”

            Father was silent for a moment, letting his words sink in. Then he looked at us knowingly and said, “No hurdle is insurmountable. No goal is too lofty.”