Once upon a time, in no particular house on no particular street, there lived two shakers who spent every hour of every day in a cupboard together. There was an orange shaker who was filled with salt – we’ll call him Orange – and he loved nothing more than a nice cuddle with his best friend, a green pepper shaker who we’ll call Greenie. They’d known each other all their lives. They were made in the same place, by the same craftsperson with very skilled hands and a very kind heart. She decided that she would mould them as two human figures, both with their arms outstretched, so that when anybody slotted them together they’d be locked in a passionate embrace. It was this that meant they weren’t like your average pair of salt and pepper shakers, because there was never any space between them, and as any being knows, be they human, animal or china condiment container, it’s very easy to strike up a firm friendship if you spend that much time with another soul. Indeed, right from the very start – and before they even knew what their destiny was – Orange and Greenie had a very good feeling about each other.
Now, because the two shakers were different colours, the family they lived with could easily distinguish between which carried salt and which carried pepper. They were both therefore given two very distinct things to provide to the meals on the table, but even though they were both very proud of their individual jobs, they were also very proud of each other, and Orange was always ready to encourage Greenie at any moment, or Greenie to encourage Orange. As you would expect, there were an awful lot of hugs between the two. “Don’t worry”, Orange would find himself saying. “I’m sure they’ll want pepper on their tea tomorrow.” The shakers always treated one another as equals regardless of their differences, but after a while there was no denying that the family seemed to prefer more salt on their food than pepper. The latter wasn’t always suitable for a meal, so Orange found himself in use more and more often, with meant Greenie found himself being left all alone in the cupboard, with no best friend to hug, more and more often.
Poor little Greenie.
At first, he was sad, and still just as happy to see Orange again when he was put back into the cupboard. The hugs continued, day after day, week after week, but one day Greenie decided they weren’t quite the same anymore. He began to feel resentment that Orange was wanted more, that he now appeared to be number one shaker. He was beginning to reconsider whether he really wanted Orange to be his best friend. “After all”, he thought to himself, “isn’t orange a stupid colour? And who wants to be friends with a shaker that’s scratched and chipped, and not perfect and clean like me? I don’t really see any reason to like him at all.”
The next time Orange was put back into the cupboard after another successful salting, Greenie wasn’t there to welcome him as he usually would. Orange could see him in the corner, his back turned amongst the Marmite and the mustard jar. Greenie would spend hours in the shadows, staying silent, and when Orange tried to find out what he’d done wrong, Greenie would say how much he hated him because he was a salt shaker, orange, or chipped and scratched and imperfect. These comments were mean and hurtful, and they took their toll on Orange. His arms quickly started to droop, as he didn’t feel the happiness he needed to give those cuddles, and more chips and scratches started to appear on his body, even though he wasn’t being dropped by Mum or Dad as much. He was well and truly losing his sparkle, but even though he missed being happy, he missed his best friend considerably more.
The silence and nasty comments continued for many weeks, until one day when Orange and Greenie found themselves alone together once again. Mum had cleared the cupboard out and for the first time in a while, there was no Marmite or mustard jar for Greenie to hide behind. Orange knew this was it. He had to bite the bullet.
“Greenie? What’s wrong with being different?”
Greenie slowly and reluctantly turned to face Orange.
“Because you’re orange, and a salt shaker, and chipped and scratched and imperfect.”
“That’s not a very good answer.”
Greenie, now completely stumped, turned back to face the darkened corner of the cupboard, trying to avoid Orange’s gaze.
“None of that is important, Greenie.”
With that, Greenie took a moment to look around himself at their surroundings. Everything else was gone, and it was just them, like it had been in the old days when they spent hours hugging one another, not giving a single thought to any differences between them.
“Don’t you see?” said Orange. “It shouldn’t matter whether you’re human, an animal or a china condiment container, whether you’re orange, green, red, purple, yellow, black, white or any other colour, or whether you’re chipped or scratched or imperfect in any way. Everybody should love and respect each other, no matter who they are or what paths their lives take.”
Orange paused, and in an instant he could feel his arms gaining strength, and some of his chips and scratches and imperfections beginning to heal. He had a good feeling about this, just like he always used to. Then, he had an idea. It was worth a shot.
Greenie stirred. He turned back to Orange, slowly but surely, and his arms, previously sternly folded in defiance, began to gain strength too and outstretch as they always had done, ready to embrace his partner. He advanced towards Orange, a smile gradually crossing his face. Then, all of a sudden, a bright light dazzled both shakers as the cupboard door opened. The warm hand of Mum or Dad entered to grasp the pair, and as the fingers closed around Greenie and Orange, they were pushed back together and Greenie realised just how much he’d missed his connection with Orange as he gazed into his friend’s eyes and smiled wider. For Orange, the feeling was mutual and the smile reciprocated. In the warm grip of the hand, they made a quiet pledge never to fall out again, ready to put all of their disagreements behind them as they were taken out of the darkness and into the light – two becoming one for good.