Told by Jenni at “March in March, Byron Bay”
I want to offer some soul food in the form of stories, because it is easy to feel despairing in these challenging times. I am going to tell you three 1 minute fables, which I find helpful. Then I’ll weave them together at the end.
1. The Woman who Shouted
There once was a large city where the motto of the people seemed to be “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.” It was like a city of two year olds. (Not my lovely two year old or yours naturally- someone else’s two year old!) They were not only greedy, they were also cruel.
In all that large city, there was only one kind adult: an old woman who wandered the streets, shouting and pleading for the people to change their ways.
At first a few people listened. But after a while they decided she was just a mad old woman, so they stopped listening to her and went back to being just as greedy and cruel as ever. Nevertheless, that old woman kept walking the streets shouting and begging people to be kinder. One day a small boy ran up to the old crone and tugged on her skirt.
‘Excuse me,’ said the boy, in a gentle voice. ‘Haven’t you noticed, no-one’s listening to you?’
‘Yes, sweetheart, I know,” she replied and chuckled softly.
“Then, why do you keep shouting?” asked the boy.
“If I still shout my dear, it’s not so I can change them, it is so they don’t change me.”
[Adapted by Jenni from ‘The Sage of Sodom’, found at Donna Jacobs Sife’s site http://www.donnajacobsife.com/. Thanks to colleague Kate Laurence who reminded me about this tale www.katelawrence.com.au. ]
2. Elephant and Hummingbird (A Chinese folktale)
Elephant was walking along the jungle path, when she came across Hummingbird lying flat on her back with her dainty short legs stretched up into the air.
“Hummingbird, what are you doing lying down there on the ground? I could have stepped on you! Are you hurt?”
“No, Elephant, I’m not hurt. I heard that the sky is falling and I am ready to catch it with my feet.”
“Hummingbird, are you mad?” snorted Elephant. “Firstly, the sky can’t fall. Secondly, even if it did, how would your short, puny legs make any difference?”
“Elephant!” said Hummingbird, keeping her feet pushed up towards the sky, “I am doing what I can! When are you going to join me and do what you can do?!”
3. Good Luck, Bad Luck! (A Chinese folktale)
A farmer had an old horse to till his fields. But one day, that horse ran off into the hills. All the neighbours sympathized. “What bad luck,” they said.
The farmer said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”
A week later, the old horse returned from the hills with a herd of wild horses. This time the neighbours clapped the farmer on the back saying, “Oh, what good luck!”
He said, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”
The following day, as the farmer’s son was trying to tame one of those wild horses, he was thrown off and his leg was badly broken in the fall. Everyone gathered and shook their head sadly, “Oh what terrible luck.”
But the farmer said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”
Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and they took away every able-bodied young man they found to fight in the Emperor’s latest war. When they saw the farmer’s son with his badly broken leg, they couldn’t take him. Now was that good luck or bad luck?
My prayer is that the ‘good luck’ or silver lining hidden within this draconian shift to the right in our country, is that it is catalysing this powerful grassroots movement. Whether we feel discouraged and whether we think we can win or not, like the old woman, we have to fight for what we believe in anyway. Right now we may feel like large group of hummingbirds, but if we persist, we could grow this movement until we are a stampede of elephants- a non-violent stampede of elephants of course!