We were about to see the large dragon amble off into the sunset when lo!—a great crane came along and said to him: 

Hey, ash-breather. No need to go searching for Lillykins to tell your tale. She’s kind of busy, anyway. Why not tell it to me and I’ll listen very very carefully and then tell you how interesting it was and how much I learned from it, and we can all go home happy. 

The dragon was astonished. Why would you want to do that? You don’t even know if my tale is interesting or not. What’s in it for you? 

The crane laughed. Aha! There we have it. The ash-breathing dragon assumes everyone is out for something. No possibility that someone might be happy doing kind and helpful things for others. No wonder you’re breathing ashes. 

Now, wait a minute, said the dragon. It isn’t as though I’ve never done any random acts of kindness, you know. 

Yes? Tell me one, said the crane. I’m listening. 

The dragon tried to think of an act of kindness he had done without thought of reward and, you know, he couldn’t come up with one. His head sank lower and lower, and his ashes tasted bitter. 

Ah well, said the crane. Don’t feel so bad. If you want to, you can start in right now, doing acts of kindness wherever you go, making up for lost time, and you’ll see: even your ashes will taste like honey!  

With that the crane flew off, large wings beating the rhythm, a song high on the wind. 

The dragon watched the crane go and wished he’d had time to ask how one goes about this business of “doing random acts of kindness.” He wished he could call back that crane and practise on him. Now, right here, there was absolutely nobody around he could practise on. Nobody anywhere he could see—except himself, of course. 

Suddenly, the dragon had a thought: why not practise on myself? Let’s see…what can I do for myself that would be kind…

The dragon was deep in thought. This wasn’t easy, coming up with something completely new like this, but he was determined. Meantime, without noticing, he had opened his tiny wings—well, tiny compared to the size of his body—and they flapped a bit as though excited, and pretty soon they flapped harder as the dragon thought harder about what kindness he could do for himself…and next thing he knew, he was rising off the ground and flying! 

Well, to tell the truth, at the beginning it was more like a run-hop-sail-a-bit sequence, but the sail part got longer and longer and the dragon got more and more excited because he’d never been able to fly before, and his wings flapped faster and faster, and suddenly he was sailing up up to the top of the nearest tree. 

There he sat, like a giant roosting bird, grinning like mad. Grinning because he was thinking: If even searching for a way of being kind results in this, imagine what actually being kind will bring about! 

We’ll leave the dragon sitting in the tree, grinning, and we’ll just assume, shall we, that the dragon henceforth changed his ways and became a happy flying dragon given to many acts of kindness and much flapping about.

* * * * *

Once upon a time, an ash-breathing dragon stood in Lillykins’ path, and another time it left her standing there being a fire-breathing dragon, and then again, there came that same dragon—or was it perhaps a different one? Whatever the dragon story is, the message is clear: if you have a dragon in your path, engage it. Find out what it’s about. What it wants from you and what you might want from it. Talk until the two of you have everything sorted out and then—alone or together—travel on your path with a new-found peace and enjoyment. 

Dragons are only obstructing your path or threatening you in any way if you have not made clear the nature of your dragon and the nature of your relationship. Once that is clear, you—each one of you—can be confident that a dragon is, after all, an imaginary construct. As they say. Its power derives from its mystery. 

Demystify by clear communication with the dragon, and presto: you have either an ally or a departing, deflated imaginary construct. So that’s the story of the dragons, whichever kind they are. 

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