The Little Lost Lamb
The mother sheep loved her little lamb just as your mother loves you.
It was a wee little lamb with a thin coat of wool and slender legs. At night it slept in the sheepfold close to its mother's warm fleece. All day long it nibbled grass, and drank from a running stream, and played in the meadow.
"Take care of my lamb," the mother sheep tried to say to the shepherd of the flock. "It is too little and weak to take care of itself."
The shepherd understood, and he watched over the little lamb although there were a hundred sheep in his flock.
He was a good shepherd or he would not have been able to care for them all. Every morning he opened the gate of the fold and they crowded out. Then he led them up a hill to the green meadow where he watched them all day. There were wolves in the mountains close by, watching for a chance to kill the little lambs. The shepherd kept the wolves away.
When the sun began to drop down behind the hill, the shepherd led his flock home to the fold. And before he closed the gate, he always counted the flock to see if there were a hundred sheep.
A storm in high places is very terrible. There was a storm with wind, and cold rain, and fire in the sky one day. The mother sheep was too frightened to know which way to go. She followed the other sheep who pushed and almost crushed each other as they ran down the hill. But the shepherd led them all gently, pointing the way with his crook. He called them by the names he had given them. He went first to keep the storm from beating them back until they knew they were safe, for the sheepfold was in sight.
As they went through the gate, one by one, he counted them.
There were only ninety-nine.
Then the shepherd looked down into the pleading eyes of the mother sheep. She was trying to tell him that her little lamb was lost in the storm.
If he had not been a good shepherd, he might have thought that so little a lamb was no great loss. But he thought only how cold the lamb must be with its thin fleece, out in the storm. He remembered that, above the storm, he had heard the howling of wolves.
So the good shepherd went out in the wind and rain to find the little lamb.
It had grown so dark that he could hardly see. The wind was cold, the rain soaked his cloak, and the stones cut his feet. Another shepherd would have turned back. But the good shepherd could see, through the storm, the sorrowful eyes of the little lamb's mother. So he went on until he found the little lost lamb, lying so cold and frightened beside the road.
The shepherd took the lamb in his arms. It was too cold to walk home. All the way back he carried it, just as carefully as your mother carried you when you were a baby. He was very happy when he reached the sheepfold and gave it back to its mother. He asked his neighbors to come and be glad with him because not even one lamb was lost from the flock.
They wondered a little that the shepherd was so glad.
"Ninety-nine is almost a hundred," they said. "What difference would one little lamb have made in so large a flock?"
The good shepherd knew. The little lamb, who was lost, was one of his sheep, and he loved them all.