The man had lived in the city for many years; he knew its ways, people, and places but the time had come for him to leave. On his way out of the city he stopped outside the gate, atop the hill that overlooked the city and the road that stretched out toward his destiny. As he was in no hurry he paused on the hill to gather himself for a couple of days before he began his journey.
After he had sat in silence for some time, he saw a traveler a great distance down the road, slowly approaching the city. As he watched, it gradually became apparent that the traveler was a man and he was pulling a small handcart behind him. As the traveler neared, the man began to prepare a meal of fruit, bread, and tea.
The simple repast was ready by the time the man could see the weariness in the travelers face. The man invited the traveler to refresh himself. He offered him cool water to drink, and a basin in which to wash. When the traveler had done, the man invited him to sit and eat and they talked. The traveler asked the man if he knew the ways of the city and the people. The traveler said he was moving to the city from a place where the people were kind to one another, helped each other in times of trouble or need, and always could be counted on to be good neighbors, citizens, and friends. The traveler asked the man if the people in this city were like that? The man replied that the traveler would indeed find the very same sort of folk here as he had known in his former home. The traveler’s heart seemed to lift and the weariness no longer looked out through his eyes. After a short rest and a bit more conversation the traveler continued on his way into the city before the night fell.
After a good night’s rest the man resumed his quiet contemplation of city and road. He felt the warm sun on his back and watched the shadows of the trees move slowly across the ground. He heard the sigh of the wind in the trees and the small sounds of birds and animals and from somewhere of running water.
As afternoon shadows began to lengthen the man noticed another traveler far down the road approaching the city, leading a donkey. Again the man prepared a simple meal of fruit, bread, and tea to offer the traveler at the end of his journey. As the traveler neared the man could see the traveler’s lips pressed tightly together, the furrowed brow, the downcast eyes. As the traveler refreshed himself the man took care of the animal. Then the man and the traveler sat together for the meal. They talked. As on the day before, the traveler stated that he was moving to this new city but the place he described coming from was a very different place. He said that people there were evil, and would steal from one another, and take advantage of each other, and no one could trust anyone. The traveler asked the man if the people in this city were like that? The man replied that the traveler would indeed find the very same sort of folk here as he had known in his former home. The traveler seemed to shrink within himself and slowly sighed. After a short rest and not much more conversation the traveler continued on his way into the city before night fell.
After one more good night’s sleep, the man began his journey and slowly disappeared down the same road the other two travelers had appeared from.
this story was told to us by our principal instructor, steve lankton, msw, lcsw
it was reminiscent of the “teaching tales of milton erickson” (a technique and the title of a book)
steve had studied with and done co-therapy with dr erickson
i was very fortunate to have been able to study with steve…i’m very grateful!
anyway, i’m sharing this because i needed this story myself again right now….