“A great story is impossible to forget.”
― Adrienne Posey
I heard this parable while living in China. It changed me forever.
A traveler is moving to a new city, but does not know the way. He hires a guide to travel with him for a small fee.
The traveler notices MANY things on his journey.
He sees beautiful things that his city never had. He notices new sounds, smells, and flavors. He encounters different climates and terrains. But nothing sticks with him as much as this one sight.
Outside the city wall, he sees an old man. He is pushing a wheelbarrow up a hill, surrounded by 7 big demons.
One is on his back, two are holding on to each of his ankles, two are in the wheelbarrow, one is in front pushing back, and the other is shouting horrible degrading things, and running in circles around the man.
The traveler is STUNNED. He can’t speak. It jars him.
“We’re almost there” the guide says. Interrupting his silence. The traveler shakes his head and keeps walking.
They get to the new city. It’s beautiful. Economy is booming. Markets are full, and the people are bustling around, dressed to impress, and busy.
Then the traveler notices a small demon, an imp of sorts. Running around stirring up a muck here and there. It is doing things like waving a conductors baton in the middle of traffic- which causes all of the drivers to yell and become irate with one another.
The little demon laughs and laughs.
That night at dinner the traveler says: “Thank you for taking me to this incredible city safely. That trek was wonderful. I saw so many things I never knew existed until this journey.”
“It was my pleasure” replies the guide.
“There is this one thing that is bothering me though.” The traveler admits.
“That old man surrounded by all of those ugly, big, demons! He must be such a vile man to live on the outskirts of such a bustling and successful city like this, while keeping company with all those demons.”
The tour guide puts his tea down. Looks at the traveler with sincere kindness.
“Oh no dear boy. See it takes 7 big, ugly demons to try and slow that loving and kind man down. He is delivering medicine to the sick who live outside the wall.
This city is so selfish and weak it only takes one little demon to run the lot of them.”
I was 20 when I head this for the first time. I weeped on a concrete stairwell at night alone after hearing it. I had never felt so seen.
I felt like I had my own set of big demons, a wheelbarrow, and a life that felt like walking uphill most days. Was I cursed? Would they be what “got” me eventually? Was my therapist right? I was just “worse off” in comparison to my peers in many ways? How did I end up here? What am I even doing? Teaching English… like I even know anything?
Then, like magic the moon shined through the glassless concrete cut out “window” and lit up right where I was sitting. I got up and walked to it. The night wind blew on my tear stained face. I looked up at the sky and the moon and said: “we are all together here, but we are all also so alone.”
I pulled out my journal and wrote. “If I am going to have multiple demons surrounding me, I’ll need to get stronger, smarter, and put things in my wheelbarrow that feel worth carrying up and down the hill.”
Every night I started running those stairs and ending at that window. Every night I’d look out at the school grounds. Noticing.
Thats where I started at least. It’s been a non stop fine tuning process ever since.
The parable helped me so much. It still inspires me.
Inspires me to not judge. Inspires me to listen to others perspectives. Inspires me to remain vigilant and not so easily swayed by little demons. Inspires me to be a person so formidable, opposition sends its biggest demons to try and stop me. Inspires me to become so strong that I can keep walking… and if I just keep walking. That is enough.
What did this parable say to you?
What did you learn from it?
I’d love to hear!
Until next time sweet thing,