There were once two caterpillars, one brown and one green, who lived in the same tree and became extremely close friends. Each morning they would find each other and then settle down on a large leaf where they could eat and talk throughout the day. Munching on leaves in the cool shade of the tree, they were as happy as two friends could possibly be.
Then one morning the brown caterpillar awoke to find his friend missing. He crawled frantically from one branch to another looking for the green caterpillar, but his friend was simply nowhere to be found. Sad and lonely, the brown caterpillar finally gave up his search and selected a leaf to eat for breakfast. The next day and the day following that, the brown caterpillar spent each morning looking for his friend but with no success. Gradually he forgot about the green caterpillar altogether.
Then, one late afternoon just as the sun was setting, a beautiful butterfly landed on the same leaf where the caterpillar was resting. The caterpillar had, of course, seen butterflies before, but he had never been so close to one of these beautiful creatures. He couldn't help but contrast the delicate body and wings of the butterfly with his own thick and clumsy appearance. To his surprise, the butterfly spoke to him.
"Oh, it's so good to see you again, old friend!" said the butterfly.
"What?" responded the caterpillar in surprise. "Are you talking to me?"
"Well, of course I am," responded the butterfly. "Don't you recognize me?"
The caterpillar, puzzled and embarrassed, said: "I'm sorry, but I really don't remember having met you before. Perhaps you're mistaking me for someone else."
"No, there is no mistake," said the butterfly, "but I suppose that I have changed a lot and so I shouldn't be surprised that you don't recognize me anymore. I was once a green caterpillar, and you and I spent many days together in this very tree."
Looking at the beautiful butterfly, the caterpillar was astonished and asked, "You were once my friend the green caterpillar? But how could that be? How could a caterpillar become a butterfly? That seems impossible."
"Well, it wasn't easy," admitted the butterfly, "but when I was a caterpillar I always believed that I had the power to change if I really wanted to. And to tell you the truth, changing into a butterfly wasn't even the hardest part. The hardest part was giving up being a caterpillar." (See also Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers [New York: Paulist Press, 1972].)