Two Excellent Parables
by Tom Damron
An old Chinese woman had two water cans which were attached to a yoke. Each day she put the yoke over her shoulders and went down to the river, filled the cans, and walked back to her modest hut. The water can on the right side of the yoke was fine and sturdy; when she arrived home it was always full. But the can on the left had a crack in it. By the time the woman arrived home, half the water was usually gone.
The left water can always felt inferior to his partner. He was ashamed that he was cracked and wasn't pulling his weight. One day he turned to the woman and apologized for being defective. The woman smiled gently and said, "Did you think I didn't know that you had a crack, and water dripped from you? Look at the path from the river to my hut. Do you see all the beautiful flowers that are growing on the one side of the path? Those are the flowers that I planted there that you watered every day as I walked home from the river."
This must be one of the oldest questions ever asked. The answer--that an "easy" life would also be a meaningless life--is probably just as old. And so is the parable told to illustrate the point:
A wealthy nobleman was once touring his estate and came upon a peasant pitching hay. The nobleman was fascinated by the sight: flowing motions of the peasant's arms and shoulders and the graceful sweep of the pitchfork through the air. He so greatly enjoyed the spectacle that he struck a deal with the peasant: he would give him a gold coin every day if the peasant agreed to come to the mansion and display his hay-pitching technique in the nobleman's drawing room.
The next day, the peasant arrived at the mansion, hardly concealing his glee at his new line of "work." After swinging his empty pitchfork for an hour, he collected his gold coin--many times his usual reward for a week of backbreaking labor. But by the following day, his enthusiasm had somewhat waned. Before the week was out, he announced that he was quitting his commission.
"I don't understand," puzzled the nobleman. "Why would you rather swing heavy loads outdoors in the winter cold and the summer heat, when you can perform an effortless task in the comfort of my home and earn many times your usual wages?"
"But master," said the man, "I'm not doing anything..."