A story is told about Muriel Lester, and English Quaker and a striver after kingdom life. One night she returned home from a meeting and found a man with a gun going through her drawers. Their conversation went something like this:

Muriel: “Good evening! Now please put that thing down. I don’t like guns and can’t talk with one in my face.” He looked at her, so stunned that he laid the gun on the dresser, one hand still on it. “Now, how can I help you? What have you come for?”

Burglar: “I’m taking your money, jewellery, and other valuables, lady. Don’t be tough with me.”

Muriel: “You must be in great need. But let’s not tear up my whole house. Here, I have almost no jewellery, but my money is in there. You may get it. I’ll collect the heirlooms and a few other things.” With that she went around her home, removing all her material treasures from their places and bringing them to the burglar.  All her money she also gave him. As he walked out of the door, brandishing his gun, threatening her not to call the police, she said, “Don’t worry. Your needs are greater than mine. I will not report. I hope you have enough now. God bless you.”  She then went to bed and slept in peace.

A few days later, her goods were all returned to her with an anonymous note: “No one has ever been kind to me before. I can’t steal from you.”

Source | Marilyn Gustin, Finding Joy & Peace: Living the Beatitudes Every Day
(Liguori Publications, 1998) page 44


Imagine you are Muriel, in a similar situation, what would you do? Would you react violently or respond with kindness?



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.



  • 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?
%d bloggers like this: