I have a question I’d like to ask you. It’s something that’s been on my mind recently. Please, if you would, take a few moments to read the following story and then answer the question at the end. Thank you.
Once upon a time, there was a man. This man worked crops for wealthy landowners. He’d been doing the same job for many years for one landowner after another. Although he was good at his work, he was very unhappy in it. The landowners allowed him to take enough food home for him and his family, but no more, no matter how hard he worked or how much food he produced. He was tired of farming and working for the landowners, but there was nothing else he could do to provide for his family. Regardless how he felt about farming, for his family to eat he would have to keep working others’ crops.
One day, he decided he wanted to become a woodcarver. He’d always admired other woodcarvers and the wonderful things they created. The idea of creating something with his own hand, heart, and mind, the thought of pouring his soul into a creation for others to enjoy was greatly appealing. He went out and bought tools for woodcarving and began studying everything he could about the art. He even found teachers to teach him woodcarving techniques.
Finally, he felt like he was ready to begin a project of his own and began carving. Little by little, day by day he worked on the wood. It took a long time because he still had to work the crops in order to feed his family. Days became weeks. Weeks became months. Months became years. After years of painstaking effort, fixing every flaw he found and adding intricate details to the piece, he felt like it was finished, and he put it out for display in a local market. A few friends stopped to look at it, complimenting him on the work, but most people walked past without paying him or his labors any attention.
He wondered why no one was interested in his work. Then he thought to himself, “Maybe I need to create more carvings. Then people will see that this is what I want to do instead of farming for someone else, and maybe word will spread about my carvings.” So, he began another work. Thanks to the things he’d learned on the first piece, this one didn’t take as long to create. After it was finished, he put it out for display alongside his first piece.
As before, a few friends stopped to look, but not as many as for the first piece. Also as before, everyone else walked past his stall without stopping to look. “I still need more,” he thought to himself. So, he kept working, creating new pieces which he would add to his display as he finished each one. As he put each new work out, the same thing happened. A few friends would admire his work, although fewer and fewer with each consecutive piece, while everyone else ignored them.
He began to get discouraged. Even knowing his ambitions, no one came by to see what he was working on. No one asked him about his woodcarving. He felt like no one was interested in the work he was doing. He began to wonder if he was wasting his time carving new pieces.
One day, he decided to stop. He would just have to keep working for the landowners, no matter how he felt about it. His family needed the food, and since no one was interested in his carvings there was little else he could do. He took all his carvings and dropped them into a well so deep it was impossible to see the bottom. Then he pitched his woodcarving tools in after them, went back to his home and resigned himself to the life of a farmer.
QUESTION: With his carvings at the bottom of the well, and his dream of being a woodcarver shattered, did he actually accomplish anything? Or was it all nothing but wasted time and effort on his part? What would you have done if you were the farmer who wanted to stop farming and become a woodcarver? What would you have told him if you’d seen him about to throw his labors into the well?