With the New Year approaching, many like to spend time reflecting on past successes, failures, new experiences and gained knowledge, as well as planning for the year to come. As a part of my own reflection, I enjoy reading the following parable…
The Parable of the Pebbles – Author Unknown
It was a beautiful day and the young man was walking along the path admiring the wonderful scenery. He was on his way to the rich city that lay beyond the three valleys. Many people in his village had talked about this city but none of those who had ventured to it had ever returned to confirm the stories of its greatness.
The first valley was a picture to behold and the grass was so green compared to his old village, which was now a day’s walk away. The valley had a small stream running through it and there were many flowers along its banks. They were small and pretty flowers, bright pinks and reds, with a fantastic scent.
He sat and took some bread and cheese from his small knapsack and enjoyed his simple lunch in these beautiful surroundings. While he ate he let his mind wonder about the rich city. After lunch he continued his long journey.
As night fell, he reached the edge of the second valley but it was too dark for him to appreciate its beauty. He opened his knapsack and took out his blanket and settled down for the night. He dreamed about the rich city and how much better his life would be for moving there; it was a long and good dream.
As the sun rose the next morning, the dawn chorus of birds in nearby hedges and trees awoke him. The young man stretched and put away his bedding and let his eyes drink in the splendor of the second valley, which was far more fertile and colorful than the previous valley.
He walked to edge of the small river and saw that there were fish in it so he set about catching one for his breakfast. Having cooked and eaten the fish, the young man walked across the river and continued his journey.
After a few miles he saw an old man asleep at the side of the path. He asked the man if he needed any help. The old man was very weak and his reply was short – “I am beyond help but thank you. I will give you some advice though – Collect as many stones and pebbles as you can before you cross the next river.” The young man was puzzled and asked “Why?” but could not get an answer; the old man had gone back into a deep sleep. The young man continued walking.
Why should he collect stones? As he thought of possible reasons he noticed two or three little pebbles in the path so he picked them up and put them in his pocket. This was a long road and every now and then he picked up a few more pebbles. His pocket was beginning to get heavy and he had no idea how much further he would have to walk. He decided that one pocketful of stones would be enough as he would tire himself too much if carried more.
Hours later he reached the third valley that was very lush and had a wide river running through it. The river was not very deep, perhaps waist high, but the current looked strong. The young man braced himself and crossed the river. He struggled against the current and almost slipped on two occasions when he would surely have been washed down river and perhaps drowned. He finally clambered up the other bank.
He rested and then carried on with his journey. After an hour or so he put his hand in his pocket and realized that he still had his pebbles. He pulled them from his pocket and could not believe his eyes – they had all turned into jewels!
The young man wished he had filled all of his pockets and his knapsack with stones and pebbles – imagine how rich he would be now! It was pointless to go all the way back to cross the river again; he would waste too much time and he could even drown if he tried to cross the river again.
He carried on to the rich city only to find that most people were poor, as they too had failed to heed the advice given by the old man.
Listening and learning is like collecting pebbles; it may seem worthless at the time but who knows when they will turn into precious gems or golden nuggets.
As a society, we seek for more and we are centered on our futures. This parable helps me cherish what is positive in my life now and helps me identify the blessings I took for granted.
Just as the young man was thinking about the rich city instead of admiring the beauty by which he was surrounded, we think the grass is greener on the other side. In many cases, we focus on our dream house or next promising venture but we neglect the relationships, knowledge and experiences that we can pick up now. By focusing on a how we can live a balanced life now and absorbing what each day has to offer, many of those pebbles we thought were useless will turn into jewels that may benefit our own situations as well as others.
My challenge to you and myself is to pick up as many pebbles as we can. Invest in the sea of knowledge, relationships and experiences that life gives us every day. As you reflect and set goals for the New Year, count your pebbles. Keep the pebbles that have not turned into jewels and utilize the pebbles that have by implementing a process to reach the goals that are most important to you. There is a rich city in the future for everyone, but don’t neglect how rich your current situation is already.
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