A Funeral for a Turtle

Alexander M. Sanders, Jr. (who was at one time the Chief Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals) spoke to the graduating class of the University of South Carolina in 1992. His daughter, Zoe, was a member of that class. He told a story about when Zoe was 3 years old. Sanders came home to find a crisis. Zoe’s pet turtle had died and she was crying her heart out. His wife turned the problem over to him to solve.

First, Mr. Sanders explained that he would go to the pet store and get her another turtle. He got nowhere with that idea. Zoe knew that life couldn’t be transferred from one turtle to another. She wanted her turtle alive. She continued to cry. Then Mr. Sanders said, “I’ll tell you what, we’ll have a funeral for the turtle.” Being three years old she didn’t know what a funeral was. “A funeral,” he said, “is a great festival in honor of the turtle.” She didn’t know what a festival was so he said, “A funeral is like a birthday party. We’ll have ice cream and cake and lemonade and balloons, and all the children in the neighborhood will come over to play, all because the turtle has died.” Zoe’s tears began to dry up and she returned to her happy self.

Then, an utterly unforeseen thing happened. They looked down, and the turtle began to move. He was not dead after all. In a matter of seconds he was crawling around as lively as ever. Mr. Sanders didn’t know what to say. But Zoe appraised the situation perfectly. With all the innocence of a three year old she looked up at her father and said, “Daddy, let’s kill it.”

Source: Public Speaking for Dummies, Malcolm Kushner

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