Once upon a time there lived a hamster. Harriet Hamster was a petite, cheerful rodent with shiny, white whiskers, soft, brown fur, and a cute pink knob of a tail. She was well known in Hamstown for her dedication to her wheel.
Each morning, Harriet would jump out of her cozy nest, wash her face, pop a nut in her mouth, and jump on her wheel. The first rungs on her wheel carried family labels: she would feed her family and see them out the door of their tree root hole. She would grasp the next series of rungs and change the straw in the nests and sweep out her home. The next set of rungs included laundry and gathering nuts and berries. As Harriet trotted along her wheel, she took root soup to her sick mother-in-law, placed a fresh flower arrangement in the neighborhood chapel, read stories to orphaned hamsters, helped a younger hamster line her nests with duck down gathered from around the local pond, and delivered a dandelion salad to a shelter for handicapped hamsters. As her wheel continued to spin under her power, Harriet helped her children with their homework, fed her family dinner, tidied their home, bathed her children, read them a story, and then tucked them into bed. Hours later, she was still turning the wheel, sending a note of encouragement to a cousin who had broken her leg and knitting a sweater for a new nephew. Eventually she would collapse into her nest before it was time to jump back on the wheel.
Harriet was so busy running on her wheel that she hardly noticed that it was expanding as more and more rungs slipped in. She loved how fast she could make her wheel spin, and she loved the admiration and appreciation of those in her hamster family and community. But eventually, her left front foot became sore, and her right back knee began to ache. Harriet persevered like a good little hamster until one afternoon her foot slipped and her knee buckled. Suddenly, she slipped off her wheel and started to fall….
Just as Harriet was thinking that she would never stop falling, she landed with a soft thump on what appeared to be a spinning plate. And then the next thing she knew, she was scooped up into large, brown hands. “Harriet!” said the old man looking down at her. “I am so glad that you have finally come to see me! I have been waiting for you.” The old Potter bandaged her foot and put a brace on her knee. Then He put Harriet gently down on His wheel and started to turn it slowly. The first thing Harriet learned within the Potter’s grasp was to sing the songs she learned as a young hamster in chapel school as she folded her laundry. And when it was time to prepare dinner, she gathered her family to work together. They complained at first, but they ended up laughing like they never had before. The next day, the Potter continued to turn Harriet’s wheel slowly and surely. She signed up for a language class that she had always wanted to take after the Potter assured her that He would find a way for her to use her new skill. And to make time for this new endeavor, Harriet withdrew from a few of her volunteer positions. She then reworked homework time with her children so that the older ones helped the younger. Instead of endless rungs of wheel tasks to perform, there was a continual, slow flow of opportunities for Harriet. She loved it.
As her days on the Potter’s wheel continued, Harriet noticed that she had more energy without even needing those coffee beans. Her fur was thicker and softer, and her eyes were brighter. But still, there were days when she missed the powerful way she felt about herself as she ran on her own wheel from task to task. She missed the admiration from the citizens of Hamstown, and she cringed when she disappointed someone. Occasionally, she would look up from the Potter’s wheel and catch glimpses of her old wheel, motionless. She wondered what it would be like to return to it.
The next few days made Harriet wonder even more about returning to her life on her own wheel. The Potter seemed to be quite sleepy and unengaged, and Harriet was restless. No one paid her any attention as she went about the Potter’s tasks for her, and she felt less and less powerful, and less and less important.
One night, Harriet had the most terrifying nightmare. Her old wheel came to life and hovered over her. Flames sprang from its rungs, and its expression was angry as it shouted at her. She tried to obey its commands, but it was never satisfied, never happy. Harriet tried harder and harder and trotted faster and faster to please the wheel. But the harder she tried and the faster she went, the more the wheel glared and screamed.
Harriet awoke in a cold sweat, quivering in her nest. Although it was still very dark, she could just make out the outline of the Potter’s quiet wheel in the middle of the room. Her old hamster wheel was nowhere within sight or sound. Harriet lay awake for a while, contemplating her dream and her life. As she fell back asleep, she was very, very grateful that she had fallen from her hamster wheel onto the Potter’s wheel.
And she lived happily ever after.