THE CRACKED POT

Once upon a time a woman named Chang Chang worked for a merchant in Sichuan province. The merchant’s home was high atop a hill, and Chang Chang worked as the merchant’s laundress. Every day she had to walk down the hill to collect water from the stream.

When she was young, Chang Chang made two pots to carry her water, and these she hung upon a pole she could carry over her shoulders. She painted one pot blue and the other red, and on each pot she painted flowers. Chang Chang loved flowers. And she loved her pots.

For some years she carried her pole down the hillside and collected water. Afterward she climbed the hill. She was strong and able, though she was growing older. And as time passed, the pots, too, grew old.

One day, as Chang Chang prepared to place the pole over her shoulders, she noticed the blue pot had a slender crack along its side.

She ran a finger over the crack and sighed, “My poor little pot.”

For a few moments Chang Chang studied the crack. “Will you hold my water?” she whispered. But she decided she could still use the pot. As always she carried both pots down the hill and filled them with water to the very brim. By the time she reached the hilltop, the pot with a crack was half-empty, but this still left her plenty of water for doing the laundry.

For the next two years, Chang Chang carried those pots down the hillside every morning. When she reached the stream, she filled them to the brim, and afterward she walked back up the hill, balancing the pole across her shoulders. By the time she reached the house, the cracked blue pot was only half full — just enough for the laundry.

Each day Chang Chang examined the crack, and though it was growing a little longer, she decided all was well. What she didn’t notice was that the poor blue pot was miserable. Each time it drank from the stream, it secretly hoped that this day all the water would stay inside its belly, but each day when they reached the top of the hill, the pot knew it had failed. The blue pot glanced at the red pot and saw water filled to the top, and the blue pot began to feel desolate.

In its resting place on the far side of Chang Chang’s little hut, the blue pot worried and wept. “I’m no good, I’m no good, I’m no good!” the blue pot wailed.

“Stop your whining,” the red pot answered. “No one wants to hear from a pot.”

One day the blue pot woke and felt its crack beginning to expand. It was certain Chang Chang would soon decide to throw it away. Soon it would be no use to anyone for anything.

That morning, as Chang Chang climbed the hill, she was startled to hear a voice she had never heard. “Chang Chang,” the voice said, “throw me away. I’m no good for anyone or anything.”

Chang Chang stopped and looked around, wondering who could be speaking to her. “Hello?” she called down the hill.

But the voice that answered was very near. “I’m right here,” said the blue pot, swinging this way and that to get Chang Chang’s attention. “I’m your pot. The pot you made with your own two hands. The pot that has served you so well all these years. But I see now my time is finished. The crack in my side has made me useless. When you carry me up the hill, I spill all my water. I’m no good!”

For a long moment Chang Chang stood very still, amazed that her pot had spoken. “Is that you?” she whispered, looking close. “Are you speaking, dear pot?”

“It is I!” the pot said. “I am so sorry I have failed you, but I have.”

Chang Chang was overjoyed to know her pots were as full of life as she had always imagined, but she was sad to hear such sorrowful words. “But pot, you don’t understand,” she said. “You haven’t been paying attention. Look around.”

Chang Chang pointed to the path beside them, the path up the hill, and for the first time the pot stopped looking inward and instead looked out. On the right side of the hill the pot noticed beautiful flowers growing in abundance — poppies and peonies and chrysanthemum and narcissus and citron. A ribbon of color edged the path.

“And look at the other side of the hill,” Chang Chang said.

The pot glanced to the other side and saw it was bare.

“I’ve always known about your flaw,” Chang Chang said. “And so I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day you water them and add more beauty to the world.”

The blue pot was overjoyed. All its sadness was gone. It understood, just as Chang Chang always had, that every being has its unique flaws. And it is our little quirks and faults that make us and the world so interesting.

Source: Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson
Tell Me a Story
www.uexpress.com

CONSIDER THIS

Nobody’s perfect, but our imperfections make us interesting.

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You’ve just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them.

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. Remember to appreciate all the different people in your life!

THE GIFT OF A CUP FULL OF DIRT

For her fourth birthday, Rachel’s grandfather brought her a little paper cup full of dirt. She was disappointed with the gift and let him know that. In response, he simply smiled and then turned to pick up a small teapot from her doll’s tea set. He took her to the kitchen and filled it up with water. They went back into the nursery. He set the cup on the windowsill and gave Rachel the teapot. He then said, “If you promise to put some water in the cup every day, something may happen.”

Rachel did as she was told, but as the days passed, she found it harder and harder to keep up the task. At one point, she tried to give the cup back to her grandfather, but he simply told her she had to keep it up everyday.

With much effort, she did just that, and eventually she woke up one morning and there she saw two small green leaves sprouting out of the soil. She was amazed by what she saw, and everyday she watched the plant grow bigger and bigger.

When she saw her grandfather again, she told him all about it thinking that he would be just as surprised. He wasn’t. The grandfather explained to her how life was everywhere and how it was hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places.

Rachel was excited by this, and asked, “And all it needs is water, Grandpa?” Her grandfather touched her gently on top of her head, and said, “No. All it needs is your faithfulness.”

 

Source| Based on a story told by Rachel Naomi Remen
in My Grandfather’s Blessings
(Riverhead Books, 2001) pages 1-2

CONSIDER THIS

Life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places and all it needs is our faithfulness.

Imagine every advent day to contain an invitation to water the soil in the field of your heart! Come Christmas day you may be surprised to discover  that the Word has once again become flesh!

FAITHFULNESS

Often, when he came to visit, my grandfather would bring me a present. These were never the sorts of things that other people brought, dolls and books and stuffed animals. My dolls and stuffed animals have been gone for more than half a century but many of my grandfather’s gifts are with me still.

Once he brought me a little paper cup. I looked inside it expecting something special. It was full of dirt. I was not allowed to play with dirt. Disappointed, I told him this. He smiled at me fondly. Turning, he picked up the little teapot from my dolls tea set and took me to the kitchen where he filled it with water. Back in the nursery, he put the tea cup on the windowsill and handed me the teapot. “If you promise to put some water in the cup every day, something may happen,” he told me.

At the time, I was four years old and my nursery was on the sixth floor of an apartment building in Manhattan. This whole thing made no sense to me at all. I looked at him dubiously. He nodded with encouragement. “Every day, Neshume-le,” he told me.

And so I promised. At first, curious to see what would happen, I did not mind doing this. But as the days went by and nothing changed, it got harder and harder to remember to put water in the cup. After a week, I asked my grandfather if it was time to stop yet. Shaking his head no, he said, “Every day, Neshume-le.” The second week was even harder, and I became resentful of my promise to put water in the cup. When my grandfather came again, I tried to give it back to him but he refused to take it, saying simply, “Every day, Neshume-le.” By the third week, I began to forget to put water in the cup. Often I would remember only after I had been put to bed and would have to get out of bed and water it in the dark. But I did not miss a single day. And one morning, there were two little green leaves that had not been there the night before.

I was completely astonished. Day by day they got bigger. I could not wait to tell my grandfather, certain that he would be as surprised as I was. But of course he was not. Carefully he explained to me that life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places. I was delighted. “And all it needs is water, Grandpa?” I asked him. Gently he touched me on the top of my head. “No, Neshume-le,” he said. “All it needs is your faithfulness.”

Source | Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings
:
Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

(Riverhead Trade, 2001 ) pages 1-2

CONSIDER THIS

Life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places and all it needs is our faithfulness.

TWO SEEDS

Two seeds lay side by side in the fertile spring soil. The first seed said, “I want to grow! I want to send my roots deep into the soil beneath me, and thrust my sprouts through the earth’s crust above me . . . I want to unfurl my tender buds like banners to announce the arrival of spring. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the blessing of the morning dew on my petals!”  And so it grew.

The second seed said, “I am afraid. If I send my roots into the ground below, I don’t know what I will encounter in the dark. If I push my way through the hard soil above me I may damage my delicate sprouts . . . what if I let my buds open and a snail tries to eat them? And if I were to open my blossoms, a small child may pull me from the ground. No, it is much better for me to wait until it is safe.”  And so it waited.

A yard hen scratching around in the early spring ground for food found the waiting seed and promptly ate it.

Source | Patty Hansen, Jack Canfield & Mark Victor HansenCondensed Chicken Soup for the Soul
(Health Communications, 1996) pages 174-175

CONSIDER THIS

  • Those of us who refuse to risk and grow get swallowed up by life.
  • It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity. | Dag Hammarskjöld

FEARLESS AND THE FEARFUL SEEDS

Two seeds lay side by side in the fertile spring soil. The first seed said, “I want to grow! I want to send my roots deep into the soil beneath me, and thrust my sprouts through the earth’s crust above me . . . I want to unfurl my tender buds like banners to announce the arrival of spring. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the blessing of the morning dew on my petals!”  And so it grew.

The second seed said, “I am afraid. If I send my roots into the ground below, I don’t know what I will encounter in the dark. If I push my way through the hard soil above me I may damage my delicate sprouts . . . what if I let my buds open and a snail tries to eat them? And if I were to open my blossoms, a small child may pull me from the ground. No, it is much better for me to wait until it is safe.”  And so it waited.

A yard hen scratching around in the early spring ground for food found the waiting seed and promptly ate it.

Source | Patty Hansen in Jack Canfield & Mark Victor HansenCondensed Chicken Soup for the Soul, pages 174-175

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity. Dag Hammarskjöld
  • Those of us who refuse to risk and grow get swallowed up by life.

THE EMPEROR AND THE SEEDS

What follows if another, older rendition of the previous story:

In the Far East, the emperor was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or his children, he decided to do something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.”

The children were shocked, but the emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor.”

One boy, named Ling, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it, carefully. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Ling didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by — still nothing in Ling’s pot.

He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow. A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But his mother asked him to be honest about what happened.

Ling felt sick at his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful — in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other children laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey, nice try.”

When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today one of you will be appointed the next emperor!”

All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. He thought, “The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”

When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Ling,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!”

Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he Is the one who will be the new emperor!”

Source | Wayne Rice, More Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Be careful what you plant, now; it will determine what you will reap tomorrow. The seeds you now scatter will make life worse or better for you and for the ones who will come after you.

  • What you sow,  you shall reap. | Galatians 6:7
  • Whatever you give to life, life gives back to you.

GOD’S FRUIT STAND

A woman went into a marketplace, looked around, and saw a sign that read “God’s Fruit Stand.”  “Thank goodness. It’s about time,” the woman said to herself.

She went inside and she said, “I would like a perfect banana, a perfect cantaloupe, a perfect strawberry, and a perfect peach.”  God, who was behind the counter, shrugged and said, “I’m sorry.  I sell only seeds.”

Source | John Shea, The legend of the bells and other tales: Stories of the human spirit

PONDER AND CONSIDER

God doesn’t deal out perfection, but the seeds which lead to fullness of life. Expecting something finished or a completed project, expecting quick and easy perfection from anyone or anything is never realistic. We are an unfinished symphony living in an unfinished, ever unfolding story of the universe. All wee can do is to daily employ love, care, kindness, hospitality and a readiness for constant and ongoing change and growth.

SOW WHAT

There was a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart and all sorts of good things, but she was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. She would read the newspapers and get depressed. One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she’d seen on holy cards and devotional pictures. She looked again and again at him, and finally she got up enough nerve and asked, ‘Excuse me, are you Jesus?’ ‘I am.’ ‘Do you work here?’ ‘No,’ Jesus said, ‘I own the store.’ ‘Oh, what do you sell in here?’ ‘Oh, just about anything!’ ‘Anything?’ ‘Yeah, anything you want. What do you want?’ She said, ‘I don’t know.’ Well,’ Jesus said, ‘feel free, walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is that you want, and then come back and we’ll see what we can do for you.’

She did just that, walked up and down the aisles. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources. She wrote furiously. By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list. Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up and smiled, ‘No problem.’ And then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, stood up, and laid out the packets. She asked, ‘What are these?’ Jesus replied, ‘Seed packets. This is a catalog store.’ She said, ‘You mean I don’t get the finished product?’ ‘No, this is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.’ ‘Oh,’ she said. And she left the store without buying anything.

Source | Megan McKenna, Parables. The Arrows of God

PONDER AND CONSIDER

What can you do, in your most proximate surroundings, to nurture and grow the seeds of peace?

SEEDS AND CEO

A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business.

Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.

He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.”

One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.

Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing.

By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.

Six months went by  – still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues, however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil – he so wanted the seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection.

Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful – in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives.

Jim just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO. “Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!”

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!”

When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed – Jim told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, “Behold your next Chief Executive Officer! His name is Jim!”

Jim couldn’t believe it. Jim couldn’t even grow his seed.

“How could he be the new CEO?” the others said.

Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!”

Source | unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Plant honesty and you will reap trust
  • Plant goodness and you will forge authentic friendships
  • Plant humility and you will reap depth
  • Plant perseverance and you will reap contentment and deep joy
  • Plant consideration and you will reap right vision and perspective
  • Plant hard work and you will reap real success
  • Plant forgiveness and you will reap reconciliation and possible new beginnings

 

THE PARABLE OF THE POMEGRANATE SEED

 

Once upon a time, a poor man was caught stealing and was ordered to be hanged by the king. On the way to the gallows he said to the governor, who was in charge of carrying out the execution, that he knew a wonderful secret, and that it would be a pity to allow the secret die with him. He also said that he would like to disclose the secret in front of the king. The poor man told the governor, further, that the secret would allow someone to bury the seed of a pomegranate in the ground and then make it grow and bear fruit overnight. Well the governor thought this sounded wonderful so the thief was brought before the king and all of the king’s high officers of state. Standing before these powerful men, the poor man dug a hole in the ground and said, “Here’s the secret: this seed must only be put in the ground by a person who has never stolen or taken anything which did not belong to him. I being a thief cannot do it.” 

So the thief turned to the prime minister who, frightened, said that in his younger days he had retained something that did not belong to him. Next the thief turned to the treasurer who said that while dealing with such large sums of money, he might have at one point or another entered too much or too little. Finally the thief turned to the king, who embarrassingly admitted to keeping a necklace of his father’s with out his permission. Then the thief said, “You are all mighty and powerful men who lack no material comfort, and yet you cannot plant this seed, while I who have stolen a little because I was starving am to be hanged.” The king, pleased with the shrewdness of the thief, pardoned the man.

Source |  Based on a story from a book of collected works The Exempla of the Rabbis written by various rabbis dating back to the Middle Ages. Stories like this one about the shrewd thief were popular in Jewish folklore.

 

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • We are all prone to making mistakes and wrong decisions.  The more aware we are of our own foibles the more tolerant, understanding and forgiving we will be of others.
  • Place yourself as an active participant in the story.  Imagine yourself the thief, the governor, the prime minister, the treasurer or the King.  Where do you feel at home and where do you feel uncomfortable?  Why?