Many years ago I heard a fable which has stayed with me as a guide in many instances for myself, as well as a powerful teaching tool for my children.
I have retold this parable in my own words for you, illustrating the crucial decisions that should be taken into account when making choices; particularly those that have the potential to alter our life – markedly in a detrimental way.
A few ideas are worth our consideration before we begin our metaphor:
• Do I ever feel superior, unique and that nothing can harm me that will/does others.
• Do I allow myself to be influenced even when I know it is not sensible or reasonable in order to be accepted (peer pressure is not just for the young, it rears its ugly head continually until we are no longer on this earth).
• Is it an easier path, emotionally or physically then to resist, even though that path could (and most likely will) lead to an uphill climb, possibly for the rest of my life?
• Do I allow, or even promote some people or a certain person to be intimately or too personally involved in my life, simply to avoid loneliness or fear of being alone? Maybe I am anxious that a desired relationship will not come, though I know, deep down inside, that this one is not in my best interest. In honest moments, I realize that my potential, and the mission I am on this planet to accomplish, will not happen if I continue the association.
• Curiosity, pride, boredom, insecurity, life’s monotony, feelings of low self worth, the idea that others do not appreciate me, the opinion I have little, or nothing to offer – all of these can tease and entice for vices such as drugs, alcohol, subtle and stark pornography, infidelity, dishonesty, abuse in all its insidious forms; actually any behavior in action or thought, that would tempt me toward immoral and corrupt behavior.
I hope this little tale I fashioned for you, will be of a benefit and help when faced with a decision that could affect you, or your loved ones, as it has me countless times along the way.
Long ago, a young man named woke with a start. He sat up, wide awake now. The long awaited time was finally here. There had been many changes of seasons and much training for this very special and highly anticipated day.
“Mapuche, Mapuche, come for breakfast”. He smiled when he heard his mother’s voice.
“Coming”, he said as he stuffed his blanket, food, knife, extra pair of moccasins and a few other supplies in his pouch.
The family sat looking at Mapuche, marveling how quickly he could eat when their food seemed to stick in their throats, refusing to move, though mother had prepared delicious food.
Mapuche didn’t seem to notice and in between bites, he told of the wonderful adventures he was going to have. This was the day that he would leave his family, his friends, all he knew in order to demonstrate his maturity and ability to sit with the elders of the tribe. He must go miles from home, alone, with few supplies and climb the high mountain. In order to prove his manhood, he had to bring back a branch from the tree that only grew at such lofty heights.
“Mapuche” mother softly said.
“Yes” he answered.
“Your name means ‘burning torch’. You are to be a light, a guide, a leader to all who watch you now and will follow your steps in life. Remember your noble character, your ability and do not go after foolishness.” Her eyes seemed to penetrate to his very soul, as well as pleading that he would remember her words.
“I won’t forget and I will be careful. I will see you before the moon has set five times.” He embraced his family and turned to being his journey.
As he walked he smiled at the ease of the journey. The meadow with its bright flowers seemed to sing with the birds in the trees for joy of their own beauty.
That night he camped. Feeling free and almost liberated he knew this would be an easy journey for such a strong, well-liked young man as he was.
The next day he had to begin the climb up the summit of the mountain. The air was chill and snow drifts even poked their heads from spots that the sun could not reach them due to the denseness of the trees.
Walking on, the air was a bit thinner, causing him to breathe heavy and with more effort.
No matter, it was nothing for such a prepared man as he. He would be praised for how quickly he was making the journey. What was that noise?
“Who is there?” asked Mapuche, wondering who else would be so far from any village.
“I am over here” replied the voice.
Mapuche left the path, though he had been warned multiple times in the past few weeks as he prepared for this journey; actually all his life he had been told to stay on the true path, but he would be fine and he was curious of what, or who, was calling to him.
“Here I am”
“Why you are a snake!” Mapuche could hardly believe his eyes, or his ears.
“I am so cold here in the shade and I can barely move. I am very hungry and surely about to die. Will you please carry me with you to a sunny rock so I may revive myself?”
“But you are a deadly and poisonous snake. Why ever would I touch you?”
“I promise not to harm you. I just need you to carry me with you to the crest on the other side of this hill top.”
“But, you have surely bitten others and they have died. Why wouldn’t you hurt me?”
“Do I look deadly to you? I promise not to hurt YOU in any way” pleaded the snake.
“Well, your skin is of such beauty that how could you be dangerous. I am sure that my parents and the old ones were mistaken when they called you a threat.” Mapuche thought to himself, they could not know of his generation, they are old fashioned in their ways. I will put the snake down before he can warm too much to be risk to my safety. I can handle myself.
Mapuche gingerly picked up the snake and put it in his shirt to warm the creature; he did feel some empathy as it was a living thing.
They traveled together all that day, to which Mapuche found the serpent quite good company and easy to talk to, interesting actually.
Night fell. He made camp, ate his dried meat and went to sleep with the snake coiled next to his warm body.
Dawn came and Mapuche was up at the first rays of the sun. This was his glory day. He would be to the designated tree, cut off a branch and be able to start for home before the sun raised high in the sky.
The snake still where they had slept, began to stretch as the beams of light came through the sky.
“Well my friend, it is time for us to part and I will travel home today.” He happily said as he bent down to retrieve his pouch.
Without a word, without warning, the snake coiled, rattled and seemed to fly . . . biting him on the neck.
Mapuche knew in an instant it was deadly. Desperately he asked, “Why did you do that? Why do you want to destroy me? You said you were my friend. I helped you and asked for nothing. Now I will die alone, without loved ones, why did you do this to me?”
The snake, very calmly and without concern replied, “You knew what I was when you picked me up” and slithered away.
Mapuche’s fearful mother, family and friends waited, prayed and hoped. After twelve moons, the braves of the village went to the mountain only to find his lifeless body.
The tale is still told of how close he had come to the desired tree, which would have secured his praise, earned him proper respect and set him the right direction for a truly happy life.
My dear friends, we have a conscience. A God-given gift to guide each one of us through dangers and hazards that could harm us, our family, our loved ones and even generations of our own posterity. Whether it be a person, a circumstance, a habit, really anything that will take us off the true path is dangerous and playing with fire. Remember, we each have the innate tools to avoid tragedy, as well as the help needed to change for the better.
Remember the words, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”
Copyright by Carrie Groneman, A Mother’s Shadow, 2013
Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today.