|Volume 4 - Issue 09 SEPTEMBER 2006||
Smiling, the man looked up and replied, “Oh, I am so fortunate! A visitor, a guest has come! Please come in and share my meal with me.”
“Is that so?” sneered the King.
“Yes, yes! It has always worked for me,” cried the cobbler. “It’s the source of my happiness. This is why I am praising God.”
“Thank you very much my friend,” said the King. He shared the pathetic meal with his host in silence. Later, as he trudged back to his palace, he thought that this cobbler was the perfect person to train about the value of happiness.
The next morning the King issued a new edict. The messengers and town criers scurried through the city, shouting from every corner that it was now illegal for anyone to have their shoes repaired by another person. The King was satisfied and wondered if the man would be so happy that evening.
In the seedy street he heard the man chanting even louder. The praises of God were echoing, filling the street with joyful sound. The King poked his head through the open window and saw the same scene: the man sitting there with tears in his eyes praising the grace of God, in the same bare room, with the same rough-hewn table, the same but shrinking candle, the chipped mug of water, the small piece of bread…and a wedge of cheese.
The man saw the astonished King and motioned him inside. “Oh please come in, my friend. Please share my meal with me.”
“So,” asked the King, “how are you doing?”
“Oh, I have had a wonderful day today.”
He stomped back home to his palace and spent a sleepless night thinking how to make the poor man have a real taste of misery. He felt certain there was a way to get this man. Soon he constructed a wily plot. The following morning he issued a new edict stating that all woodcutters must become guards of the royal palace. There would be no exceptions. The cunning King thought that he had trapped the man now. Palace guards, unlike all the other professions the poor man had tried, were only paid at the end of the month. The day of the edict was the 15th, so the man would not have any money for two weeks. “We’ll see how he survives with his ‘day by day everything gets better’ philosophical nonsense,” mused the King.
Crestfallen, the poor man managed to stammer, “Oh no, I didn’t know that.” He left the palace, walking home with his shiny sword by his side. As he walked he contemplated what he could eat while waiting for two weeks without any money. Finally, he pawned his sword to a blacksmith. The blacksmith gave him enough money to live comfortably on for two weeks.
“It would never do to be a guard without a weapon,” he muttered to himself as he formulated a plan. “I know! I’ll fashion a wooden sword that fits exactly into the sheath and if I paint the handle black, it will look like a metal sword.” The fake wooden sword looked perfect. No one would ever guess it was not the genuine article.
He hung up his uniform, and with a deep sigh of satisfaction sat down to his evening meal. Suddenly, he saw a huge pair of eyes bulging at him from the darkness of the street. His friend, the anonymous King, was looking at him. He was astonished to see the poor man’s table groaning under a fine carafe of wine, a jug of water, a huge crusty loaf of bread, and a hunk of cheese. Incredulous, he stammered, “H-h-hello my friend, you have had an excellent day, I see.”
“Yes, please come and share my meal with me. Today, by God’s grace, everything is getting and better, as you can plainly see.”
The man started relating his adventures of the day and how he had become a palace guard. “Yes, yes, look my uniform is over there.” Then he went on to innocently confess the entire story of the counterfeit sword to the King.
The King devised a plot to trap the man in the palace. The captain of the guard, obeying the King’s orders, marched in front of the palace driving a prisoner before him. “You there!” he barked at the poor man. “This criminal has been condemned to death by the King. The King orders you to execute him immediately. Chop off his head with your sword.”
The King smiled to himself as he saw the trap sprung. The poor man swallowed and put his hand on the handle of his useless sword, trying to avoid the eyes of the terrified convict and felt the whole palace glaring at him, waiting for his decisive stroke. Nevertheless, he took a moment to calmly assess his situation. Obviously, the wooden sword was useless to cut off a man’s head. The seconds stretched elastically as he contemplated his ghastly order. The other guards shifted nervously; the captain raised an eyebrow; the King leaned forward in his seat and a small bead of perspiration rolled down the criminal’s cheek and splashed on to the ground.
Further, it is the role of God and spiritual mentors to give some trouble to their children, in order that they may grow in faith and confidence in themselves and in God. As Paramahamsa Yogananda once said, “Problems are a necessary ingredient in life and make it worthwhile. Meet everybody and every circumstance in the battlefield of life with the courage of a hero and the smile of a conqueror. Misery is really your best friend because it awakens your search for God.”
- Adapted from SSS Bal Vikas Monthly Magazine, June 2006
Illustrations: Ms. Vidya, Kuwait
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Vol 4 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2006
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