“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination” - Earl Nightingale
Here’s my adaptation of Aesop’s Fable of the Man, Boy and Donkey:
A father and his almost adult son set out to sell their donkey and buy winter provisions. As they were walking alongside the donkey, a passerby said, “You fools, what is a donkey but for to ride upon?”. So the father put his son on the donkey. Then they passed another group of laborers, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he rides and makes his father walk.” So the man ordered the boy off the donkey and got on himself. They hadn’t gone far when passed by two women, one of whom said: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor son trudge along.” Shamed, the man had his son get on the donkey in front of him and started to town.
Entering the gates of the city, the father noticed passers-by were jeering and pointing at them as they rode the donkey. He stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The villagers replied, “Aren’t you ashamed for overloading that poor donkey, you and your hulking son?” In compliance with the dissident voices and mocking fingers, the man and boy got off and tried to think of what to do. They cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders, and marched slowly towards the marketplace. As they were crossing the bridge, the son stumbled, and in the struggle the donkey fell over the bridge and drowned because his feet were tied.
“That will teach you”, said an old man who had followed them.
Aesop concludes his fable by saying: “PLEASE ALL, AND YOU WILL PLEASE NONE”.
The father and son had failed in their goal of selling the donkey and had no money to buy the winter provisions they needed in order to survive.
How much different the outcome would have been if the father and son had had a plan to follow. The Father could have said, “I’ll ride the donkey one-third of the way; Son, you ride the donkey one-third of the way; and we’ll both walk the last third of the way. The donkey will arrive at the marketplace fresh and strong, ready to be sold.”
Then, as they received confusing advice while traveling through each hamlet and village along their way to the city, they could look at each other, give a reassuring wink of the eye, and say, “We have a plan.”
We all need plans, whether it is for work or for the most important work we do as parents and grandparents. There’s an important donkey in each of our lives. What is your plan for it?
“Four steps to achievement: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.”—William Arthur Ward
“The greatest form of charity may be to withhold judgment.”—Sandra Rogers
One of my favorite songs is more timely today than when it was first sung in 1965. You’ve probably heard these first two lines from the lyrics by Hal David and the music by Burt Bachrach at least twenty times:
What the world needs now is love sweet love,
But the next two lines are just as powerful:
What the world needs now is love sweet love,
It’s that love for everyone that we seem to be struggling with. That struggle takes place within families…within communities…within our nation…and throughout the world.
I heard the story recently of a three year old who pointed to an object on the television screen and said: “Mom, that’s a weird chicken.” Her mother responded: “That’s a peacock, not a chicken.”
Like the unknowing three year old, we too often look at others with an incomplete or inaccurate understanding. We see them as weird chickens when if we could see them through a curious and tolerant lens we might begin to appreciate the beauty of their peacock-like uniqueness and potential.
Walt Whitman said: Be curious, not judgmental. And, James E. Faust said: The older I get, the less judgmental I become.
Whether old or young, may we all become more tolerant, more forgiving and much less judgmental. Then we will be part of bringing that love sweet love into the world, not just for some but for everyone.
“The greatest gift you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance” –Brian Tracy
“The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream…in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.” — James Allen
It was a parochial school near the center of Denver, Colorado. 98% of the second grade students in this classroom were “school lunch eligible”, meaning their family’s income falls below the poverty line. I was an observer in the classroom as the teacher delivered a lesson on “setting goals”. The teacher finished and invited the five adults in the back of the classroom to mingle with the students and to admire their Dream Boxes.
I had noticed a Hispanic boy a few rows in front of me. He had raised his hand enthusiastically each time the teacher had asked a question but never been called upon. I approached his desk and said, “I’m Mr. Warnick, what is your name?” Jose grinned shyly as he uttered his name.
“Jose,” I asked, “what is this box on your desk?”
“That’s my Dream Box,” he replied, slowly opening the box to reveal a variety of rocks and other stuff. The sides of the box, top and bottom were covered with pictures cut from magazines and other material and then pasted on as a collage of dreams and goals.
“Looks to me like you like rocks, Jose”. “Yeah,” he smiled, “I want to be one of those rock scientists when I grow up.” “A rock scientist….do you mean a geologist?” I inquired. “That’s it….I want to be a geologist.” Our conversation turned easily to a short discussion of what he would have to do to become a rock scientist. He was going to have to study hard, get good grades, so he could get into college and study for five or six years more to become a geologist. I was amazed at the clarity he had and how his teacher had helped him discover the steps he would need to take to reach his goal.
How did a seven or eight year old gain this clarity and set such an audacious goal?
It started with a shoe box. Each student brought a shoe box to the second grade classroom.
Next, his teacher brought magazines, Sunday newspaper advertising inserts, and anything else she could find that was full of colorful images. The students were asked to dream about what they wanted to become when they grew up, to think about things they wanted to do, places they wanted to visit or see, or people they wanted to meet someday. Finally, they were asked to cut out pictures from the magazines and advertising materials which could tell a story about what they were fascinated by, what they wanted to learn more about, the places they wanted to visit, and things they wanted to see or do.
So Jose’s box was adorned with pictures of mountains (“they are full of rocks” he told me) but it also included a soccer ball (“I want to play soccer…maybe if I’m good enough I can get paid to play soccer in college”), pictures of Disneyland and Disney World, and a picture of the Pope and the President.
And, inside of box were at least ten different rocks that Jose had collected since the start of second grade. He could tell me if this rock was igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary and where it came from.
This summer I’m going to pull my eight and nine year old grandchildren together for cousin camp. I’m going to either bring shoe boxes or perhaps we’ll go buy some shoes they’ll need for school this coming fall. But with those shoe boxes I’m going to ask them to dream…dream big…dream about the things they want to do, the places they want to visit, the people they want to meet, and what they want to become.
I believe these dream boxes are the seeds of future greatness. They are a powerful visual reminder of the freedom we enjoy to dream and achieve. Everyone should have a Dream Box, not just second graders. What would your Dream Box look like? And how might it influence the next five, twenty-five or fifty years of your life?