I heard a parable once that stuck to me like bubblegum on my high heels. It’s one you may have heard yourself — you’ll recognize it at once if you have — and if you haven’t, do enjoy the stickiness. This is my retelling, which I’m sure is clear.
There once was a farmer who had a single horse with which to work his land. One day, the horse ran away. “That is terrible news!” said his concerned neighbor. The farmer shrugged and said, “Who’s to say what is good and what is bad?” The neighbor probably looked at him like he was weird. He was kind of weird, but that has nothing to do with the story.
The horse came back the very next day and brought another horse with him! Very good news, no? Maybe, maybe not. Because the farmer gave the second horse to his strapping son and the next day, the horse threw the young man off and he broke his leg in like nine places. The (nosy) concerned neighbor said, “Ooh! Now that is bad news!” but the farmer put up his hands and said, “Who’s to say what is good and what is bad?” Now the neighbor was like, “See ya,” and he didn’t take over a hot dish to the son, who was convalescing.
In a week or so, the king’s men — because we are in Arthurian England, suddenly — came to take every able-bodied man to war. They didn’t take the farmer’s son, clearly, because he was useless to them with the broken leg.
Good news, no?
I think about this story so much. Because again and again and again in my life, I see this playing out. When I moved away to college, I was sad and afraid. But then, you know, college was awesome. I got a job in a nightclub when I was twenty-two and thought, “Boo-yah!” but it was terrible after awhile. I was so excited to move to New York City last year and then it turned so sour. And I was incredibly sad and disappointed when I had to relinquish my lovely D.C. townhouse to the rat, rat, rats, but do you know that… Well, I’m so happy here. I love this building now. It’s cozy. It’s safer. The sun comes up over Washington D.C. in peachy pink and golden orange and I just feel so happy.
I’m not sure how anemia can be good, but who knows? The boy in the story who shattered his leg certainly didn’t think it was very good, but then he didn’t have to fight in a war. Maybe I’ll be spared a war.
Maybe you will.