I'm constantly reading how we can make efforts to develop kindness and compassion for those who persecute or oppress us... or even, to use less grandiose terms, for those who just hack us off and irritate the c**p out of us.... how we should try to see them as our teacher, how wise it is to "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer"... and I know I'm not the only one to have the occasional difficulty in putting this into practise, so I just thought I'd share a little story with you, which struck me as being quite nice.
A Carpenter was working in his workshop one afternoon when his son came in from school and threw his satchel down in anger and disgust.
"I HATE those boys at school!" He cried. "They constantly tease me and pick on me and make my life a misery!" he slumped onto the low stool next to his father's workbench.
His father stopped his work, and asked his son,
"What have they been doing? have they hit you? Do they bully you and hurt you?"
"No," replied the boy. "They just seem to go out of their way to wind me up! I don't go looking for trouble, father, honestly! But they really, really irritate me!"
"Don't let them!" answered his father simply. But both knew it wasn't as easy as all that.....
"I'll tell you what," said the carpenter, eventually breaking the silence after a few moments. "Go and have the courtesy of telling your mother you're home. Do your homework, then come back in here. there's something I want you to do for me."
A while later, the boy returned to find his father placing a piece of wood onto the workbench. It was a regular, oblong piece of pine, and he was turning it this way and that to check for flaws.
"It seems a pretty good piece of wood.... here!" he said, tossing it to his son. "You've been dying for ages to make something with me. How about turning a nice fruitbowl for your mother as a gift?"
The boy was delighted, and listened carefully to his father's instructions as to how to use the lathe and chisels, how to shape and form the wood, and fashion it into the desired shape; how to finish and smooth the bowl and produce a beautiful and useful object.
Gradually over the next few days, the bowl took shape, and under his father's guidance, the boy produced an elegant and beautifully simple bowl.
"Now how did you do that?" asked his father, admiring the bowl. The boy was puzzled by the question.
"I mean, how did you start? What did you do? What tools did you use?" elaborated the carpenter.
The boy began to describe the process of using the sharp, well-kept and potentially lethal tools at his disposal....
"But what about the wax polish, and the soft cloth?" enquired the man further.
"Well, "replied the boy, still a little puzzled "they came last of course...."
"And there you have it!" Exclaimed the father.
The boy was finally convinced his father had lost his marbles, but the man continued....
"Every human being is a wonderfully useful piece of wood. Some are flawed, others aren't too bad. But every piece has its use. But in order to shape and develop this wonderful finished article - the person at their fullest and most wonderful potential - you need sharp, cutting, abrassive and powerful tools. You need to be a bit ruthless to expose the beautiful item at the end. This is what these boys are to you..." he explained, picking up a chisel, and pointing also to the lathe, the sandpaper and the other tools on his workbench.
"They are the sharp, biting, cutting abrassive tools that can make you what you are capable of being. We need these kind of things in our lives to help bring out the potential - the best - in us. The fine wax polish and the soft cloths are your friends and family. Those who love you, nurture you, protect and nourish you. But what really makes the man, is what is exposed by the influences that shape him."
Next time you see an ornately carved and beautifully fashioned piece of wood, think of the work that went into creating it. Next time you see a block of raw, untreated, rough piece of wood, try to see the potential within. Then look at every human being in this way....
And next time you see yourself in a mirror, observe the masterpiece before you, and delight in just how much has gone to make the beautifully crafted human being you see before you.
I did embelish the story rather, but I delight in storytelling, and I thought I'd just give you something to do....!!