'Thou shalt not covet'

The crabs harvested each year off the shoreline of Harkers Island on North Carolina's Crystal Coast teach a metaphorical lesson in human nature.

The crabbers sort and deposit their live catch in uncovered, shallow trays just off the ocean's edge. For visitors new to the crab trade, the low-walled holding trays seem illogical. It appears that a crab could sidestep his fate on the local lunch menu by simply climbing over the edge of the tray and falling to the soft sand below. Watery freedom awaits a few feet away.

Such escapes, say veteran crabbers, rarely occur. The other crabs won't allow it. The moment a freedom-seeking crab ventures over the tray's edge the other crabs extend their pincers and pull it back to captivity. No need to police the crabs. They police themselves.

Crabs and people sometimes behave alike. We, too, might be guilty of begrudging another's success. The saying, "We all like to see our friends get ahead — but not too far ahead," was not intended for a crustacean.

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