Sometimes the simplest tales shed light on what’s most important. Lisa shares an ancient folktale that has lessons that ring true today.
"My son", said a wise grandfather in the village, "you're letting worry about what might be take the joy out of what is..."
"Better to look for the joy in today and let tomorrow take care of itself."
Today I’d like to share a children’s folktale that I came across that absolutely enchanted me. Sometimes the simplest tales shed light on what’s most important. Let me explain a little bit about how I found it.
We spent much of our time during the pandemic in the mountains of Quebec. We were happily settled to be at our rental on the lake from Nov thru Spring when, in February, our landlord unceremoniously informed us that they would be renovating and we needed to move. So life happens and, long story short, that's how we ended up at what we lovingly referred to as our “Swiss Chalet”.
The place harkened back to a time when families could gather. A rustic time capsule from the 1950s, a kind of old school Catskills vibe, not very fresh, more like a well worn slipper and definitely filled with lots of love and memories from the past.
We were extraordinarily lucky to have found a place so quickly and I’m not sure exactly how we stumbled upon it, like a kind of Brigadoon that had been there for us just when we needed it.
So when I found "Highlights For Children", the magazine that I used to read as a child - lining the bookshelves there, perfectly preserved, I was absolutely delighted. I carefully selected one to look at and remarked that the tagline of the magazine is "Fun With A Purpose".
I laughed to myself and thought, of course, synchronicity, coincidence, I don't know. And when I opened it randomly, it opened to this Korean folktale that I want to share with you called the House Thieves.
I hope it resonates with you as it did with me.
"Years ago in a small village in the land of the morning calm, there was a charcoal maker who was so poor that his only possession besides the wooden hut in which he lived was a large black kettle. The charcoal maker was so worried that the kettle might be stolen that he refused to let it out of his sight by day and slept in the bottom of it by night. All around him. The other villagers talked and laughed and played and worked, but the charcoal maker could not take part because he was just too busy worrying about his kettle. My son said a wise grandfather in the village, you're letting worry about what might be take the joy out of what is. but the foolish charcoal maker would not listen and continued to worry about his kettle. One night at a very dark hour two thieves snuck into the village and peeked inside each hut, looking for something to steal. But inside every hut lay a family asleep on the floor and the cowardly thieves didn't dare enter for fear of waking someone. So the night was almost gone and the thieves were about to give up when they peeked into the charcoal makers hut. Seeing no one there they crept inside. The only thing they found was a large black kettle. But even this was better than nothing. So having no idea that the charcoal maker was asleep inside, they tied ropes around the kettle and carried it out. As they carried it down the dirt road that led away from the village, one of them said, I have never known a heavier kettle than this one. And the sun is beginning to rise answered the second. The villagers will be up and after us before long. So, they decided to abandon the kettle and they ran for their lives. Soon after the charcoal maker began to wake. He felt the sun's warmth and light flowing in through the mouth of the kettle. He stood stretched his crumpled arms and legs and stepped out. His bare feet felt the earth and stones beneath them and he opened his eyes wide. Where there had been walls there was now air. Where there had been a roof, there was now sky. There could be only one explanation for all of this my house he wailed my house has been stolen and he melted into a sobbing puddle of despair. Before long down the road came the grandfather on his morning walk. What is ailing you my son? Can you not see, ailed the the charcoal maker. My house has been stolen in the night! All these years I have been worrying about my kettle and now my house has been stolen from on top of me. Ah, so it is with life the grandfather sighed.But there was a twinkle in his eye.
While you are worrying about one thing, another thing happens. Yes, so it is with my life sobbed the charcoal maker. It makes one wonder if there is any use in worrying at all. Yes, it does make one wonder said the charcoal maker sobbing not quite so hard.
Better to look for the joy in today and let tomorrow take care of itself. Yes, that is better repeated the charcoal maker. Besides, added the grandfather; if you continue to worry about your kettle who knows what might be stolen next? Yes! Who knows! Agreed the charcoal maker. The grandfather turned to walk back to the village. On my way here, he said over his shoulder. I passed a house that looked very much like the one stolen from you last night. The charcoal maker could not believe his ears. He clumsily hoisted his kettle up on his shoulders and stumbled after the wise grandfather, who led him straight down to his own house. It was standing in the usual place but the charcoal maker did not notice. He only felt joy at having the house back again. From that time on the charcoal maker spent his night sleeping beside his kettle instead of inside of it. He stopped worrying and began talking and laughing and playing and working with the other villagers, and he lived a long and prosperous life. His house was never stolen again. And as far as anyone knows, neither was his kettle.