One story every day
For centuries, an impressive monastery stood on top of a hill overlooking the area. People came from far and wide, knocking on the monastery door. Farmers asking the monks to pray for a good harvest, young couples for sun on their wedding day and many young men wanting to join in as a monk.
Each monk had specialised in a certain topic and transferred their knowledge over generations of monks, thus creating strong pillars of wisdom. People in the area knew for which issue to go to which monk and they were a source of support and inspiration to all.
But after a while, something started to change. The monks couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment but less and less people started knocking on their doors. Less farmers, less young couples, less young men. And slowly the monastery fell silent.
Some of the monks knew who was at the root of this. They looked at one another and thought, “He talks too much. He babbles on and on. Nobody ever knows what he is talking about. It chases people away.”. Or “He talks too little. He just sits there! It is uncomfortable for the people. Nobody likes that. It’s his fault!”. Or “He changes his mind constantly. One time he says this, then something else. He’s unreliable. People don’t like that. That’s why they stay away.”.
The head of the monastery, the Prior, was very worried and at his wits end.
One day the Prior decided to leave the monastery, walk down the hill and knock on a wise Rabbi’s door, who lived in the valley down below. The Rabbi opened his door, let the Prior in, offered him a chair and tea and listened to the Prior’s problem with care. Then the Rabbi said, “My heart goes out to you. It must be devastating for you and your monks. But I also do not know what to do.”. It wasn’t the answer the Prior had hoped for and he got ready to leave again.
Then the Rabbi said, “Oh, just one more little thing; someone told me – I forget who – that one of your monks is supposed to be the new Messiah.”.
“What!?!… One of us?”. “Yes.”, the Rabbi said. “…Who?”. “I don’t know.” he replied.
Completely confused, the Prior went back up the hill. Once arrived there, his fellow Brothers asked, “And? What did the dear Rabbi say?”. “He said that one of us is the new Messiah.”. “What?! One of us?! Who?”, the monks asked. “He said didn’t know.” the Prior answered.
And in spite of the fact that they didn’t know, they all started looking for the new Messiah within the monastery walls, within their fellow Brothers. “He can talk to anyone. He eases people and knows how to connect socially. That might be a true Messiah quality; maybe it’s him?!”. “He is such a good listener. Whenever I am troubled, he just listens and makes me feel heard. That’s what a Messiah does. Maybe he’s the one?!”. “He is so flexible; never stuck in just one idea or way. He adjusts to any situation. Surely he could be the Messiah!”.
The new Messiah was never found; however profoundly they searched for Him. But they did started to look at each other with new eyes. And slowly things started to turn around…
Once upon a time, a man travelled the roads and came to a small village looking for a place to stay the night. He approached the villagers saying, “I’m a simple traveller, looking for a place to sleep and a hot meal.”. The villagers replied, “We’d be glad to offer you a place to sleep, but our crops were ruined this year and there’s hardly anything to eat in the whole village. Most of us are just barely getting by.”.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” the man said. “But you needn’t worry about feeding me. I already have everything I need. In fact, I was thinking of making some ‘stone soup’ to share with all of you.”. “Stone soup?” the villagers asked. “What’s that?”. “Oh, it’s wonderful,” said the man. “Best soup I’ve ever tasted. Bring me a pot and some water, and I’ll make some for all of us!”.
And so the villagers rushed back to their homes. When they returned, one was carrying a large pot, another some wood for a fire, and others brought water.
When the fire was going and the water had begun to boil, the man took out a small silk pouch. With great ceremony, he reached in and pulled out a smooth, round stone. He carefully dropped the stone into the boiling water. Mesmerised, the villagers watched every move the man made. Slowly, he began to stir the pot, sniffing the aroma and licking his lips in anticipation. “I do like a tasty stone soup,” he said. “Of course, stone soup with cabbage—now that’s really special.”.
“I might be able to find a bit of cabbage,” one villager said. And off she went to her house, returning with a small cabbage she had stored away in her pantry. “Wonderful!” said the man, as he added the cabbage to the pot. “This reminds me of the time I had stone soup with cabbage and a just bit of salted beef. It was unbelievably good.”. After a moment of silence, the village butcher spoke up. “I might know where there’s a bit of salted beef,” he said. And off he went to his shop to get it. When he returned, the man added the beef to the soup pot and continued to stir. “Can you imagine what this soup would taste like if we had only a little bit of onion… or perhaps a few potatoes… or a carrot or two… maybe some mushrooms? Oh, this would be a meal fit for royalty.”.
And before he knew it, the pot got filled to the brim with vegetables of all kinds— carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, turnips, green beans, beets and celery—all brought by the men, women and children of the village. Not only that, but the village baker came out with some fresh bread and butter!
And as the soup simmered slowly over the fire, the wonderful aroma began to waft over the villagers. And they began to relax and talk together, sharing songs and stories and jokes. When the soup was finally done, the man ladled it out into bowls, and they all shared a delicious meal together. There was more than enough for everyone to eat their fill. Afterward, they all declared that it was the best soup they had ever tasted. The mayor of the village pulled the man aside, and quietly offered him a great deal of money for the magic stone, but the man refused to sell it.
The next morning, he woke early and packed up his belongings. As he was leaving the village, he passed by a group of children playing at the side of the road. He handed the youngest one the silk pouch containing the stone, and whispered, “The magic is not in the stone; it is in all of us, together.”.
Once in the deep Jungles of Africa, an old dog had wandered away from the village and got lost. He could not find his way home and went deeper and deeper into the Jungle. “No need to worry yet.” he said to himself, “My life experience will help me and the sun will guide me on my way.”. So, he buggered on.
He did not notice though, that a young lion was following him from a distance. The young lion had spotted the old dog and said to himself, “This creature looks edible. Never seen his kind before. I might just chase him and have him for dinner”. So the lion started rushing towards the old dog with menace.
The old dog noticed the young lion speeding at him and started to panic. But just as he was about to run, his eye fell on some bones next to him on the ground and they gave the old dog an luminant idea…
He grabbed one of the bones and spoke out loudly, “Mmm…that was some good, juicy lion meat! And there’s plenty room for more!”. The young lion abruptly stopped his tracks and thought, ” Whoa! This creature seems tougher then he looks. I better leave while I can.”. And he ran away.
Over by a tree top, a witty monkey witnessed everything. Evidently, the monkey realised that he could benefit from this situation by telling the young lion what truly went on and getting something in return. So the monkey called out to the young lion and proceeded to tell him what had really happened. To which the young lion said angrily, “Jump on my back, Monkey. And we will teach this creature a lesson that will cost him his life.”.
Off they went: the young lion with the witty monkey on his back, rushing towards the old dog. As soon as the old dog saw the monkey on young lion’s back, he realised what had happened and started to panic again; now even more than before. But then another idea jumped to mind. The old dog turned his back to the lion and the monkey and screamed out loud, ”Where the hell is that monkey! I told him to bring me another lion an hour ago…”.
As soon as the young lion heard this, he threw monkey to the ground and dashed away, deep into the Jungle, never to be seen again.
Big problems might seem to be creeping up on you and in those moments you might feel defenceless. But if you approach them with confidence, you might just get away with it…
Once upon a time there was a big lake in a faraway country. Three shiny, fat fish lived in it, very peacefully. One of them was cunning, the second was wise and the third just plain stupid. Now one day, some fisherman came to the edge of the lake. They placed their boats in the water, pushed them from the shore and threw out their nets. All three fish noticed the danger that was about to disrupt their peaceful lives.
Seeing the fishermen and their nets, the cunning fish decided at once to leave and make the long, difficult trip to the ocean. He thought, “I won’t consult with the other two on this. They will only weaken my resolve. Because they love this place so - they even call it home - their ignorance will keep them here.”. And so he swam away…
After the cunning fish had left, the wise fish thought, “My friend has gone. Maybe I ought to have gone with him, but I didn’t, and now I might have lost my chance to escape.”.
He mourned the absence of his friend for a while and then thought, “What can I do to save myself from these men and their nets? Perhaps if I pretend to be already dead! I’ll belly up on the surface and float like weeds float, just giving myself totally to the water and to whatever is about to happen. I will pretend to have died, before I truly die, and keep my eye on the possibilities that will pass me by.”. He did just that. There he bobbed, up and down, helpless, within arm’s reach of the fishermen.
“Look at this!” the fishermen said, “That big fish is already dead. Toss it away!”. So, one of the men lifted him from the water by the tail and threw him to the shore. The wise fish rolled over and over and slid secretly near the water, and then… slid back in.
Meanwhile, the third fish was agitatedly jumping about, trying to escape with his force and cleverness. Halas, the net - of course - finally closed in around him. The fishermen grabbed him from their nets, placed him in a bucket and took him home.
Later that day, as he lay in a terrible frying-pan surrounded by garlic, lime and rosemary, he thought, “If I get out of this, never again I will stay in the limits of that big lake. Next time, I will head for the vast, infinite ocean! Next time, I will definitely make that infinite my home. Next time…”.
You might be wise, or you might even be cunning. But please, don’t be the stupid one!
A long time ago, all fire belonged to the Fire Gods who lived in a tipi on top of a great, big mountain. They kept the fire away from everybody and guarded it with all their might, every day and every night. The people of the Earth had to do without it and managed very well during the warm months. But winter came, and so did cold winds and the freezing snow. The animals did not mind but the people had no way to keep warm. No fire, no warm food, nothing.
Coyote could see the people suffering and knew he had to do something. So, one day Coyote decided to steal the fire and give it to the people. But how?
He called a gathering of all the animals. “We need to help these creatures; they are not strong like us. Who will help me steal the fire?”.
Bear, Deer, Squirrel, Chipmunk and Frog all offered to volunteer.
“Great!” said Coyote, “Bear, you are big and strong. So you will come with me up the mountain to the Fire Gods’ tipi. Deer, Squirrel and Chipmunk; you all are fast runners. You stand along the path, ready to run.”.
“And me?” asked Frog, “What shall I do? I do so want to be helpful.”.
“Dear Frog, you are too small and will be of no real use. You can jump and swim but you can not run. There is nothing you can do.”. “I could wait next to my pond and make sure I’m ready.” Said Frog, “Just in case…”
“You do that.” Coyote said, “Just sit and be ready; just in case…”
So Frog sat down next to his pond and waited; just in case…
The others went on their way, through the forest to the mountain foot, where high up the Fire Gods lived. Coyote placed Deer, Squirrel and Chipmunk along the path and climbed the mountain with Bear. Once arrived at the tipi, Coyote placed Bear behind a bush and said: “When you hear me call out ‘Aaaooo!’ then you need to make a lot of noise.”.
Coyote then tiptoed to the tipi, barked quietly until one of the Fire Gods peeked out. There he could see Coyote standing, shivering from the cold. Coyote most politely asked: “I’m sorry to bother you. Could I please warm up inside for a second? My feet are slightly frozen and I would like just a quick warm up before I am on my way again. It will only take me 2 minutes; if it does not inconvenience you.”.
The Fire God was taken by all this politeness and agreed to let him come in. Coyote stepped in, laid himself down
next to the fire, stretched himself and called out: “Aaaooo!”.
Suddenly, from outside, a lot of noise came and the Fire Gods all ran outside to see what was going on. “Who goes there!” they called out and started to chase Bear as soon as he stepped from behind the bush.
Coyote grabbed a burning log from the fire, jumped out and ran down the mountain. But the Fire Gods noticed and started to chase Coyote and soon started to catch up on him. Coyote threw the burning log to Deer as soon as he passed him and Deer ran away as fast as he could. The big flames burned Deer’s tail and that is why deer have short tails now. Soon the Fire Gods started to catch up on Deer. But Deer threw the burning log to Chipmunk as he passed him and swiftly Chipmunk speeded away. Again the Gods came closer and scratched Chipmunk’s back with their claws. That’s why they all now have a striped back. Then Chipmunk passed Squirrel, threw what was left of the burning log and Squirrel dashed away with it. The log was getting smaller fast and the heat came so close to him that it curled his tail. That’s why…
Finally Squirrel reached the pond where Frog was waiting; just in case…
“Here! Frog! Catch!” and Squirrel threw the last burning bits of the log towards Frog. Frog caught it with his tongue, hid it in his mouth, jumped into the pond and swiftly swam to the other side. There he caught eye of a tree and called out: “Catch and hide!” and spat out the final flames.
Tree hid them deep inside.
The Fire Gods did not know how to get the flames from the tree and, after a lot of circling around it, decided to go back home. Coyote asked the trees to only share the fire with the people. But it was Frog who had saved the day.
So keep your eye on the little things; the things that seem to be of no real use. They might be the things that save you in the end…