A favorite story I heard long ago is about how some young boys tried to fool a wise old woman who lived in their village. The boys, who had seen the woman hobble about town just couldn’t understand why the adults always seem to treat her with respect. Putting their heads together, they schemed to find a way to show how pathetic she really was. Routinely they tried to come up with questions they thought she’d never be able to answer—but she always had something wise and relevant to say. Still, they never stopped trying to trip her up.
One day a particularly mischievous boy in the group came up with the perfect question that would be impossible for the old woman to answer correctly. He plotted a plan to hold a small live bird behind his back in his cupped hands. He would then ask the wise woman, “Is the bird in my hands alive or is it dead?” Naturally, if the woman said the bird was alive, the boy intended to quickly squeeze the life out of it and answer, “No, the bird is dead.” If the woman said the bird is dead, then the boy would merely present the live bird proving her wrong. Either way, the boy laughed thinking he couldn’t lose.One day soon the crowd of boys found the old wise woman walking the streets of their village. The ringleader of the group had his live bird hidden away and when they saw the woman, he stepped boldly in front of her, holding the small bird behind his back. “Wise woman,” he challenged her with a smirk, “is the bird in my hand alive, or is it dead?
The woman was no stranger to these types of challenges or these types of boys. She paused patiently and looked around meeting the eyes of each of the boys before finally leaning over the boy in front of her until she met him on eye level. That’s when she said, “Young man, the life you are holding—is in your hands.”
Of course, although this story makes a nice point, many could argue that it is too simplistic. After all, even though my life and your life might be “in our hands,” we are also subjected to a variety of circumstances that seem out of our control. While the boy certainly had the choice of ending the small bird’s life—if it had already been dead, none of us would have expected him to have the power to reverse the process.
Still, most of the time most of us forget that the choices we make and the decisions we either make or ignore “are in our hands.” Perhaps if we remembered on a regular basis that the small, innocent lives of anything in our experience (our creative ideas, a person in the checkout line having a tough day, or young person’s dream) can either be helped or hindered by our actions—we’d pay a bit more attention. If we truly think about it, a large part of a SMART and happy future is definitely “in our hands.”
“With our thoughts we make the world.” ~Buddha
“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.” ~Flora Whittemore