In his book, Don’t sweat the small stuff, Richard Carlson relates the following story.
“There once was a village that had among its people a very wise old man, The villagers trusted this man to provide them answers to their questions and concerns.“One day, a farmer from the village went to this wise man and said in a frantic tone, ‘Wise man, help me. A horrible thing has happened. My ox has died and I have no animal to help me plough my field. Isn’t this the worst thing that could have possibly happened?’
“The wise old man replied, ‘Maybe so, maybe not.’ The man hurried back to the village and reported to his neighbors that the wise man had gone mad. Surely this was the worst thing that could have happened. Why couldn’t he see this.
“The very next day, however, a strong, young horse was seen near the man’s farm. Because the man had no ox to rely on, he had the idea to catch the horse to replace his ox - and he did.
“How joyful the farmer was. Ploughing the field had never been easier. He went back to the wise man to apologize. ‘You were right, wise man, Losing my ox wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. It was a blessing in disguise. You must agree that this is the best thing that could have happened’.
“The wise man replied again, ‘Maybe so, maybe not.’ Not again thought the farmer. Surely the wise man has gone mad now’.”
As the story continued, some days later, the farmer’s son was thrown off the horse while riding it, and broke his leg. That meant the son wouldn’t be able to help with harvesting, and that would greatly affect their livelihood.
Again the farmer visited the wise man, mentioned his son’s injury, and said it was the worst thing that could have happened. And again the wise man said, “Maybe so, maybe not.”
The farmer was “enraged” and went back to the village. The next day troops arrived in town to recruit “all able-bodies men” to fight in the war which had recently started. His son was the only young man who couldn’t go. If he had gone, there was the chance he might die.
As Carlson wrote, “The moral of the story provides a powerful lesson. The truth is, we don’t know what’s going to happen - we just think we do.” He believes we need to “get comfortable not knowing.”
While it may be natural for us to imagine that the worst will happen in a given situation, Carlson says that most of the time it doesn’t, and that we need to be more open to the possibility that all will be well.
May it be so for us!
Harvie Barker is a Penticton resident and writer of inspirational messages. He’s the author of the book, A Good Word in Season Volume 8, now available from The Herald’s front desk for $10 with all proceeds to local charity.