Read a version of the following story some time ago. Thought about it again today. And think it is worth sharing:
Once there was this really grumpy young man. It wasn’t really his fault that he felt grumpy. Things aren’t going so well in his life. He hasn’t been able to succeed in the things that matter to him. He hasn’t been able to get the recognition for the things that he is doing. He was just not happy.
As you can imagine, such a person is probably not a very popular person. Indeed, he didn’t have many friends. His neighbours rarely talked to him. In fact, they would give him a wide berth whenever they see him. It’s that perpetual scowl on his face! Who would want to talk to someone like that?!
So this young man was quite miserable. But if you think that things can’t possibly get any worse… well… one day, as the young man was leaving his house for work, he saw a pile of shit dumped on his front porch! It was a noxious disgusting pile of turd. Right on his front porch! Who could have done such a thing?! The young man was furious. He screamed and shouted in anger and disgust. Oh what a frightening sight the young man was. His neighbours were pretty much freaked out.
But other than cursing and scolding, screaming and shouting, the young man did nothing about the shit. Someone else dumped the shit on his front porch, it wasn’t him. Why should he be the one to clean it up?
The next day, when the young man was about to leave his house, he saw that the pile of shit in front of his house not only wasn’t cleaned up, someone else had dumped another fresh pile of shit on his front porch! WHAT?! The young man flew into another rage, cursing and swearing, “You think it is funny? I’ll kill whoever did this!” But other than all the cursing and swearing, the young man did nothing else.
This went on for a few days. With each passing day, the pile of shit grew bigger and bigger. The cursing and swearing became louder, more vicious and lasted longer. The young man not only cursed and swore in the morning when he saw the pile of shit get bigger, he cursed and swore about the pile of shit all the time. And as you can imagine, this only made his neighbours like the young man even less.
The terrible smell of the shit on the young man’s front porch and his horrible swearing and cursing really got to his neighbours. His neighbours’ lives were now being affected too. The neighbours now can’t get a good night’s rest (it’s difficult to sleep well with the odour of shit wafting into the house and the harsh voice of an angry neighbour cursing and swearing).
Now the whole neighbourhood is grumpy, tired and downright unhappy. The neighbours decided that something needed to be done. They went to confront the young man and told him that they wanted him to leave the neighbourhood. The young man was livid! It wasn’t his fault that the shit was left on his porch!
But how can he stand up to the whole neighbourhood? He was exasperated. Exhausted. After his neighbours left, the young man just sat on his porch, next to the pile of shit (which by now is quite large) and just burst out in tears. Why? Why did this have to happen to him? He felt more miserable than ever.
Then, just as the man felt completely hopeless and resigned himself to his fate, an old wise man, never seen before in the neighbourhood, came up to the young man.
“Hey young man. Why are you crying?” the old man asked kindly.
“Can’t you see? It’s this pile of shit,” the young man replied and recounted what had happened to the old man.
“Oh,” the old man said, “This is easy. We can solve this.” With that, the old man went off. Before long, the old man came back with a couple of shovels and a wheelbarrow. He passed a shovel to the young man and with took the other himself and started shoveling the shit onto the wheelbarrow.
“Come on now. If we work together, we can definitely clear this pile of shit up!” the old man encouraged.
Seeing how the old man was putting himself out to help him, the young man felt ashamed. He can’t just leave the old man to shovel the shit all by himself, especially when the old man had no reasons whatsoever to have to be helping. So the young man took up the shovel and started shoveling the shit onto the wheelbarrow. They then wheeled the shit to the young man’s backyard and buried it. It was really tough work! They weren’t able to finish clearing the shit in one day (it was a pile of shit that had been accumulated over many many days!). So they decided to rest for the night and continue the next day.
The next morning, they found that someone had dumped a fresh pile of shit again! But because they had cleared more shit than had been added, the pile of shit was actually still smaller than it had been the day before. So the young man and the old man continued to clear the shit, shoveling it onto the wheelbarrow, wheeling it to the backyard and burying the shit.
This was really hard work! The pile of shit was quite huge. And each day, someone would dump new shit on the porch. But slowly, with persistence, the pile of shit got smaller each day. Also, the old wise man, knowing that the soil of the backyard would become very fertile because of all the shit that is being buried, suggested to plant some flowers and fruit trees. The young man thought it was a great idea and together, they planted some flowers and fruit trees.
Finally, after many months and days of hard work, the pile of shit on the front porch was almost cleared up (it almost never is, because someone kept dumping a fresh pile on the front porch), something magical happened in the backyard – the flowers blossomed beautifully and fruit trees bore a bountiful harvest. Now, instead of a horrible stench from the young man’s house, there was the wonderful fragrance of flowers and fruits.
Also, the hard work of clearing the shit seemed to have mellowed the young man. He wasn’t as hot tempered anymore. In fact, he became more polite and courteous to his neighbours. He shared the fruits from the fruit trees in his backyard freely with his neighbours, gave them flowers once in a while and smiled and greeted them frequently. Slowly, his neighbours started talking to him and the young man eventually became good friends with his neighbours.
The young man still did not manage to catch the person dumping the shit on his front porch. And every so often, there is a fresh pile of shit on his front porch. But instead of grumbling, the young man was actually happy for it. More fertilizer for his garden! Which meant more beautiful flowers and a more bountiful harvest of fruits to share with his friends! Life, finally, had become good for the young man. He had finally become happier. And all because of the pile of shit dumped on his front porch.
Bad things happen. They are bound to. It is an inevitable fact of the universe. But the way we react to these bad things determine whether these bad things get us down or they help us be better, happier people.
Shit happens. We didn’t ask for it. But rather than just curse our luck (which turns people away from us), lets get to work, shovelling the shit. I know. It’s not easy. And it would certainly be great if we have friends who are like the wise old man to encourage us and help us shovel the shit. And eventually, the shit will help us grow our own gardens in our lives, drawing people to us, bringing happiness not only to ourselves but also to those we come into contact with.
So. When shit happens. Let’s start shovelling.
[Featured image: Source]