21. Is That So?
Here’s a wise old Taoist folktale for your toolkit.
In an ancient Chinese village there lived a very old sage. He was so old in fact, that no one in the village could remember him being born. He was but a simple farmer whose only belongings were his horse, a hut and a small plot of land. He lived there with his grandson who helped to tend to the fields and care for the horse.
One day the old farmer’s horse was spooked by a thunder storm, broke out of its’ corral and galloped away over the hills beyond.
The villagers saw this and came to the old man’s hut lamenting the loss of his only horse. “Oh, you poor old man! Your only horse has run away. Oh, poor old man, what misfortune!”
All the wise old farmer could say was, “Is that so? Is that so?”
The very next day, the old man and his grandson were out tending the crops when they heard the sound of thunder. They both looked up but the sky was as clear and blue as can be. Then suddenly, over the nearest hill came galloping their dear horse and behind her another twenty wild ponies. The grandson opened the gate to the corral and into it trotted twenty one beautiful horses!
The villagers saw this and came running to the old man saying, “You fortunate old man. The spirits are smiling on you. You and your grandson are so lucky! And the old sage smiled and replied, “Is that so? Is that so?”
The following day, the grandson was out training one of the wild horses. He was thrown from this spirited horse and consequently broke his ankle.
“Ai!”, cried the villagers. “Poor old man, your only grandson, Ai! How will you tend your garden? How unfortunate!”
And of course, the old farmer could only respond with, “Is that so? Is that so?”
Now, the very next day, the army came marching through the village recruiting all the able young men to join them in the war being fought in the north. The old farmer’s son could not go because of his broken ankle. After the soldiers scoured the village, the only remaining young man was the old farmer’s grandson.
The villagers, many now bereft of their sons, came to the old man’s hut pouring their affections on his grandson, “Oh you are so fortunate to keep your son! How lucky you are in this turn of events… so fortunate, so fortunate.”
Our old farmer sage replied in turn, “Is that so? Is that so?”
As teachers and parents, children depend on our stability. Sometimes our strength and stability is best demonstrated in our ability to bounce back, to not be afraid to show your weaknesses, to be able to self correct, to admit mistakes and move on. Children don’t need us to be “perfect”. They need us to be human. Humility, humanity and humor all have the same root . . . Hum!
So the next time you feel like your job has become an emotional roller-coaster ride from one day to the next, just remember the story – “Is That So?”