A Tale of Two Villages

by Jim Trettel, January 29, 1996 -- DRAFT!!

Many years ago, I set out upon a long journey which took me through many distant lands. One day I came upon a village. It was settled between a mountain and a river and had an abundance of resources. As I observed the village and its people, I noticed something peculiar. The people were idle yet they were content and well-fed. Not understanding how this could be, I asked a villager why they were not busy obtaining food for their families.

"See that mansion up on the mountain?", replied the villager. "In it lives a kindly old gentleman who is very rich. He and his sons provide enough food each week for the entire village. He has a great stockpile and has been our provider for as long as any of us can remember. We all love the man greatly because of his kindness."

I decided to stay at this village for a time; it seemed like the perfect place. Everyone was provided for and no one had to work. However, after a time I realized that something was lacking in this place. The villagers had an abundance of time and nothing productive to do. Some used this time for good, but many were lazy.

Then one day the inevitable happened. The old man on the hill passed away. There was a large funeral attended by every villager for they loved him dearly for his kindness.

Then the sons explained to the villagers that the stockpile had run out. There was no more food.

Panic began to spread through the village and no one knew what to do. Surely they would starve without the old man's kindness. Then they turned on the sons saying, "It is your duty to provide for us in the manner of your father."

"We cannot although we want to. There is no more food. We will starve, too," they lamented.

I quietly pointed out to several villagers that their land is fertile and would easily support the whole village if they only worked the soil to grow crops. And winter was approaching soon.

The villagers countered, "We cannot work the soil. We don't know how."

The village was in deep despair and several factions began to develop. Some were organizing to attack a neighboring village and take their food. Some knew that they must do something to provide for themselves, but they knew not what to do. Some became despondent and became resigned to starve but continue hoping that another would come to fill the old man's role as provider.

I left that village for I was sure things would only get worse. It had seemed like such a wonderful place! "Is this the fate of all villages?" I thought.

I soon came upon another village, a very industrious village. It seemed as though every person was involved in one activity or another. I had not realized how full of dirt and grime the first village had been until I was surrounded by the sparkle and brilliance of everything here. The streets were not paved with gold, rather the village was somewhat average. But it was clean and sparkled with radiance. The villagers seemed truly happy, not just content.

I became very intrigued and wanted to know what the secret of this village might be. Do they have a provider even richer than the other? Will his wealth run out someday, too? Hoping to spare this village from the same fate that overtook the first, I asked a passerby where their provider could be found.

"What do you mean?" he replied.

I told him the whole story and everything that I had observed at the first village. He thought for a moment then replied, "We have no provider, except for ourselves. We work for our food and take pride in what we do. Our food will never run out because we understand that if we do not work, we do not eat."

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