A king, two old ladies, & something to ponder
There once lived a king, the richest in the world, who loved his subjects deeply. He wanted to give each one of them a gift from his treasury.
He knew each of his subjects intimately. He knew which of his precious treasures would be the best thing for them.
So he traveled around his kingdom and gave each person, one by one, a carefully-selected treasure. To one person he gave a jewel-encrusted chalice, to another a pearl necklace, to another a ruby ring.
Each person, when presented with his or her gift, gasped in delight and amazement. Some shed tears. Some spontaneously embraced the king.
Everyone was very grateful. And the king was happy.
One week later, wanting to see if his subjects were still happy with his gifts, he dressed in rags to disguise himself and walked through his kingdom.
What he saw and heard grieved him thoroughly.
It seemed that his subjects had been happy with their gifts — until they started comparing them with each other.
“I can’t believe your ring is bigger than mine,” wailed one man, who had thanked the king profusely when he had received his ring, to another.
“The king must love you more than me,” whined one woman to another after they had shown each other their gifts.
Everywhere he went, everyone he encountered no longer expressed gratitude for his or her gift, but rather envied the gifts of everyone else. In truth, the whole kingdom was in an uproar over the gifts. It’s all anyone talked about. People had begun hating each other as they debated the comparative value of their gifts.
Burdened with sadness, the king wandered into a dirty alleyway, where he saw an old lady sitting on a stair step. She was holding and staring at the gift he had given to her — a tiny, dull, rough-cut diamond — and grinning from ear to ear.
“What are you so happy about?” he asked her.
“I’m happy because the king loves me,” she answered. “See?” She held out the tiny diamond to him. “Look at what he gave me.”
“But haven’t you seen what he gave everyone else?” he asked.
“Oh, yes, such marvelous treasures.”
“And aren’t you jealous that other people got bigger, brighter, more valuable gifts?”
“Why should I be?” she asked innocently. “I had no jewels before, and now I have this one. Shouldn’t that be the only thing that matters?”
The king smiled, unveiled himself, and embraced the old woman. “Bless you, mother,” he said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the largest, shiniest, costliest jewel from his treasury and handed it to her.
That simple little story was prompted by something I read this week.
Then, later in the week, I read a true story of a couple who were driving down the street and saw an old lady walking down the sidewalk. They felt a prompting to stop and give her a ride, which they followed.
The old woman accepted the ride immediately without so much as a “thank you.” She began giving them orders of where she needed to go. They took her to three stores and waited patiently for her to do her shopping.
She then directed them to her house, whereupon she got out and walked inside without even looking back or thanking them.
Dumbfounded, the couple sat looking after her, wondering why they had felt prompted to pick her up she clearly didn’t appreciate it.
And then they heard the answer, which pierced them to their core: “Now you know how I feel.”
And I am pierced to my core as I ponder which of these old ladies I am most like.