There is an old parable that has stuck with me over the years. I would like to think that it has helped to guide and shape my words and actions. Occasionally, I need to remind myself of the values it contains. This past week, I have shared it twice with others in situations that could really benefit from it. I like recounting this, as every time I do, it solidifies for me the values and message and helps to crystallize my own actions and words to be more positive.
Imagine an old oriental town, an old man is sitting and enjoying the sunny day near the town’s gate. A shepherd with his sheep is watching this scene:
A tired stranger comes to the old man, sits down near him and asks the old man: “Please, tell me about the town, what kind of people live here?” The old man then said “First, tell me about your place and from where you have come.” The stranger replied, “Really, nothing to tell – it was old, dirty and a boring town. People who lived there were evil and nasty, just quarrels and scandals every day.” “Well,”-said the old man – “It is sad to tell, but here you’ll find the same. A dirty, boring town and people here is not better than in place what you just left”. The stranger then sat a little bit with the old man, ate his breakfast then he left.
Some hours later another stranger came to this old man to ask about this town and the people who live in this town. This old man was not in a hurry to answer this question. He just asked the stranger a question back. About his place where he had come from. The stranger said “Oh, it was a wonderful place, so quiet and peaceful! And people who lived there: they were so kind and nice to me, we became such great friends and we even cried when I had to leave!” The old man replied “Don’t worry, stranger – you’ll find new friends in this town and find this town the same peaceful and quiet. Just go on in!”
The sun started to go down and the shepherd his sheep to go back to the town, he stopped near the old man and asked him why he gave such different answers to these two strangers.
“I did not lie to them.” Responded the old man.”The truth is that in each place that you visit you will find the same circumstances as the place you left. You will also find in this world, just who you are. Also that there is no way to find something different in the world. Till you change yourself. For you always bring your world with you”.
This little gem of a story is golden to me. It poignantly highlights how our perceptions become our reality. If we choose to perceive things poorly, that will be our world. If we choose to focus on the misgivings in others, we miss the incredible joy of focusing on all of their wonderful qualities. I believe in this sentiment very strongly. I do not know why, but quotes, affirmations, and parables like these always touch me in some manner. I find them stimulating and thought provoking. I am sure when I share these things with others, they view me as some newage crackpot, spouting cliches like a Hallmark greeting card, but alas, I will continue.
I am enjoying my personal transformation. I believe that a 25+ year career where I have been paid to locate, discuss, and solve problems has created a tendency in me to focus on problems. I have been contracted to highlight and bring problems to light in my professional life. That mode does not work very well in my personal life. As much as I dislike a dichotomy of being, I need to put those problem focused skills in the toolbox and leave them there, only bringing them out when appropriate. I wish to walk into the new town of everyday being amazed, awed, and overjoyed at the abundance of good I discover.
Write the bad things that are done to you in sand, but write the good things that happen to you on a piece of marble. ~ Arabic Parable