Collecting pebbles

Some time ago in the middle of the desert three nomads were preparing to go to sleep. It was pitch black and getting cold. They had parked their camels, taken what they needed from the saddle bags, pitched their tents, and rolled out their sleeping mats. They were just about to settle down for the night when their attention was attracted to a curious glowing light on the horizon. As they watched, the light brightened. It gained intensity, it gleamed and glowed and glistened, galloping towards them, until it filled the whole of the night sky. And they knew, each one absolutely knew, they were in the presence of some kind of divine being, and they waited for the words which they knew would come.

And the words came. And the words said: »Go forth into the desert. Gather as many pebbles as you can. And tomorrow you will find yourself delighted, disappointed, and very, very curios…« And that was it. There was no more. Only silence. And the light receded back from where it had come, until all was dark again except for the twinkling of the stars high in the black night. And the nomads were furious. »What kind of god is this?« demanded one. »Gather pebbles? Who does he think we are? Rubbish collectors? I belong to a proud race. That I should stoop so low!«

Another added: »Now a real god would have done things differently. A real god would have shared secrets with us. Would have told us how to eradicate poverty and suffering; or how to prevent global warming; or how to irrigate the desert.« »A real god, » said the third, »would have given us the key to success; given us the winning lottery numbers; shown us how to become rich and famous.« But perhaps because of their memory of the purity of the light, or the resonant authority of the voice that spoke the words, the nomads went out into the desert, still grumbling and complaining, perfunctorily gathered a few pebbles, and threw them grudgingly into the depths of their saddlebags. And then they went to bed.

The next morning at dawn the nomads rolled up their sleeping mats, dismantled their tents, showed them in their saddlebags, and set off for the next oasis. They rode with the sun arching high overhead, across steep dunes and through deep rocky canyons. They rode all day until, as the sun sank in the west, they saw its reflection glinting on the lake at the centre of the oasis they sought. And they went through the ritual they went through every day. They parked the camels. They pitched their tents. They unrolled their sleeping mats. And then, one of the nomads went over to look for something in his saddlebag. And as he rummaged around his hand closed on something small, round, and hard. A pebble, And when he pulled it out, and to his amazement discovered it was a diamond, he couldn’t believe it. So he searched for the rest in his saddlebag, while doing so he called to his companions, and they too found that all their pebbles had become diamonds.

And you can imagine how delighted they were. Until they realised how few they had collected the previous evening. And you can imagine how disappointed they were. But after a while they got to thinking about the meaning of all this. These pebbles, which the previous night they had considered so worthless, were now precious. And they began to wonder how many other things in their lives, things that they had previously considered of little or no consequence in the past, might have a value that they hadn’t discovered or considered yet.

Source: The Magic of Metaphor: 77 Stories for Teachers, Trainers & Thinkers by: Nick Owen, 2001

Lessons from this story:

  • To many times we focus on our comfort right now, and not enough on what we do for our future.
  • If something doesn’t look valuable right now it doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.
  • Do not let other people and their way of thinking stop you from doing something that is important to you. In the end you live with the consequences of what you do, and what you do not.

Are there any lessons I missed? Please let me know in the comment section.

Source of the featured image: Collecting pebbles

I hope you found this post helpful. Let me know what you think. Talk to you in the comment section.

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