CAN IT GET ANY WORSE?

can-it-get-any-worse

A poor man lived with his wife and six children in a very small one-room house. They were always getting in each other’s way and there was so little space they could hardly breathe!

Finally the man could stand it no more. He talked to his wife and asked her what to do. “Go see the rabbi,” she told him, and after arguing a while, he went.

And so the poor man told the rabbi how miserable things were at home with him, his wife, and the six children all eating and living and sleeping in one room. The poor man told the rabbi, “We’re even starting to yell and fight with each other. Life couldn’t be worse.”

The rabbi thought very deeply about the poor man’s problem. Then he said, “Do exactly as I tell you and things will get better. Do you promise?”

“I promise,” the poor man said.

The rabbi then asked the poor man a strange question. “Do you own any animals?”

“Yes,” he said. “I have one cow, one goat, and some chickens.”

“Good,” the rabbi said. “When you get home, take all the animals into your house to live with you.”

The poor man was astonished to hear this advice from the rabbi, but he had promised to do exactly what the rabbi said. So he went home and took all the farm animals into the tiny one-room house.

The next day the poor man ran back to see the rabbi. “What have you done to me, Rabbi?” he cried. “It’s awful. I did what you told me and the animals are all over the house! Rabbi, help me!”

The rabbi listened and said calmly, “Now go home and take the chickens back outside.”

The poor man did as the rabbi said, but hurried back again the next day. “The chickens are gone, but Rabbi, the goat!” he moaned. “The goat is smashing up all the furniture and eating everything in sight!”

The good rabbi said, “Go home and remove the goat and may God bless you.”

So the poor man went home and took the goat outside. But he ran back again to see the rabbi, crying and wailing. “What a nightmare you have brought to my house, Rabbi! With the cow it’s like living in a stable! Can human beings live with an animal like this?”

The rabbi said sweetly, “My friend, you are right. May God bless you. Go home now and take the cow out of your house.” And the poor man went quickly home and took the cow out of the house.

The next day he came running back to the rabbi again. “O Rabbi,” he said with a big smile on his face, “we have such a good life now. The animals are all out of the house. The house is so quiet and we’ve got room to spare! What a joy!”

Source: Aaron Zerah, How the Children Became Stars:
A Family Treasury of Stories, Prayers and Blessings
from Around the World
Sorin Books
, 2000

CONSIDER THIS

  • Perspective is everything.  It is not what we see, but the way we see it. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.
  • Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to – Abraham  Lincoln
  • Think about your biggest complaint and what the rabbi would tell you if he heard it. Today, follow the rabbi’s advice.
  • Imagine you are the man in the story. At the end, what would you say to a friend who complained about how bad life was?
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CAN I BUY AN HOUR OF YOUR TIME

How Much Money Do You Make, Dad?

A man came home from work late again, tired and irritated, to find his five-year-old son waiting for him at the door.

“Daddy, may I ask you a question ?”

“Yeah, sure, what is it ?” replied the man.

“Daddy, how much money do you make an hour?”

“That’s none of your business! What makes you ask such a thing?” the man said angrily.

“I just want to know.  Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?” pleaded the little boy.

“If you must know, I make $20.00 an hour.”

“Oh,” the little boy replied, head bowed. Looking up, he said, “Daddy, may I borrow ten dollars, please?”

The father was furious. “If the only reason you wanted to know how much money I make is just so you can borrow some to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed.   Think about why you’re being so selfish.  I work long, hard hours every day and don’t have time for such childish games.”

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door. The man sat down and started to get even madder about the little boy’s questioning.  How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?

After an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think he may have been a little hard on his son.  May be there was something he really needed to buy with that ten dollars and he really didn’t ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy’s room and opened the door.  “Are you asleep son?” he asked.

“No, daddy, I’m awake,” replied the boy.

“I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier,” said the man.  “It’s been long day and I took my aggravation out on you. Here’s that ten dollars you asked for.”

The little boy sat straight up, beaming. “Oh, thank you daddy!” he said. Then, reaching under his pillow, he pulled out some more crumpled-up bills.

The man, seeing that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, then looked up at the man.

“Why did you want more money if you already had some?” the father grumbled.

“Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do,” the little boy replied. “Daddy, I have twenty dollars now.  Can I buy an hour of your time?”

Source | Ernest Kurtz, Katherine Ketcham , Experiencing Spirituality:
Finding Meaning Through Storytelling (Tarcher 2014) page 98

CONSIDER THIS

To prove his love for her, he swam the deepest river, crossed the widest desert and climbed the highest mountain. She divorced him. He was never home. – Rose Sands

 

THE FISHERMAN WHO KNEW HOW TO LIVE

A smartly-dressed enterprising tourist is taking photographs when he notices a shabbily dressed local fisherman taking a nap in his fishing boat. The tourist is disappointed with the fisherman’s apparently lazy attitude towards his work, so he approaches the fisherman and asks him why he is lying around instead of catching fish. The fisherman explains that he went fishing in the morning, and the small catch would be sufficient for the next two days.

The tourist tells him that if he goes out to catch fish multiple times a day, he would be able to buy a motor in less than a year, a second boat in less than two years, and so on. The tourist further explains that one day, the fisherman could even build a small cold storage plant, later a pickling factory, fly around in a helicopter, build a fish restaurant, and export lobster directly to Paris without a middleman.

The nonchalant fisherman asks, “Then what?”

The tourist enthusiastically continues, “Then, without a care in the world, you could sit here in the harbor, doze in the sun, and look at the glorious sea.”

“But I’m already doing that”, says the fisherman.

The enlightened tourist walks away pensively, with no trace of pity for the fisherman, only a little envy.

Source: Anecdote concerning the Lowering of Productivity
in Heinrich Boll (author), Leila Vennewitz (translator)
The Collected Stories of Heinrich Bollpages 794-796

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TWO OTHER VERSIONS OF THE SAME STORY

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village.

An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with all your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs…I have a full life.”

The American interrupted, “I have a degree in business management and I can help you!”

You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.

Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.”

“You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American. “And after that?”

“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stock and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?”

“After that  – and this is the best part – you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends!”

______________________________

The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.

Why aren’t you out fishing? said the industrialist.

Because I have caught enough fish for the day, said the fisherman.

Why don’t you catch some more?

What would I do with it?

You could earn more money was the reply.

With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish.

Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats…maybe even a fleet of boats.  Then you would be a rich man like me.

What would I do then?

Then you could really enjoy life.

What do you think I am doing right now?

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Is there enough balance in your life between doing and non-doing, work and rest?
  • Know where you’re going in life … you may already be there.

ELBOW AGILITY

Giovanna, a delightful Italian grandmother is giving directions to her grown grandson, Antonio, who is coming to visit with his wife, Maria.

“You come to the front door of the apartment. I’m in apartment 301. There is a big panel at the front door. With your elbow, push button 301. I will buzz you in. Come inside, the elevator is on the right. Get in, and with your elbow, push 3. When you get out, I’m on the left. With your elbow, hit my doorbell.”

“Grandma, that sounds easy, but, why am I hitting all these buttons with my elbow?”

“What … are you coming empty handed?”

PONDER

  • Are you blessed with elbow agility? Or put in slightly different words: where do you stand when it comes to gift giving?
  • What is that little thing that you can bring along to enhance the feast of life wherever you go?