There was once a village brimming with dissatisfaction. Brothers fought with brothers. Neighbours bickered constantly. Husbands and wives wouldn’t stop arguing. Co-workers refused to get along.
God soon grew fed up with the lot of them and sent his favourite angel in the guise of an old man to resolve their issues. The old man mingled with the villagers and was soon tired of their constant moans and complaints. None of the hapless villagers had anything good to say about the other. The streets, houses and even the village pub were rife with criticisms, complaints and arguments.
The old man was so bored of this, that he decided this was as good a time as any to execute his mission. So he summoned the village elders, and called for a meeting in the public square.
At the designated hour, the entire village turned up in full force. It had been a long time since they had all gathered in the square. The last time had been to lay to rest the head of the village, who had met his end at the hands of his own son.
The atmosphere was thick with curiosity, as the villagers tried to guess what the reason for this sudden meeting could be. The old man made his way to the centre of the square, and gestured the mob to keep silent.
He then asked, “Can any of you tell me why you are so discontent? What causes you to be so unhappy?”
The villagers began talking all at once, such that it was impossible for even a single one to be heard coherently. The old man raised his arm, and said, “Please be quiet.” He pointed to a youth, who was reclining in the corner and asked, “Would you answer this question?”
The youth quietly replied, “We are dissatisfied because we haven’t been able to fulfil our dreams. Our unhappiness with ourselves, causes us to vent our frustrations on each other.”
The old man was silent for a minute. He appeared to be deep in thought. When he spoke, it was as if he were choosing every word carefully. He said, “I have the ability to give three villagers a chance to fulfill their dreams. Who among you would like to fulfil your dreams?”
Who would pass up an opportunity, when presented like this? There was a cacophony of noise as they began speaking over one another. The villagers started clamouring to the centre of the square, almost causing a stampede, in an attempt to gain the old man’s attention.
Fearing that another quarrel would break out, he commanded them to stop creating a ruckus. He then said, “I will choose the three lucky villagers, because I do not want to be the cause of any more quarrels among you.”
He selected a 20 year old youth, a 45 year old woman and a 75 year old man. He then asked them to come the very next day at the break of dawn to the square.
The three excited villagers couldn’t sleep a wink that night. After all, their most cherished dreams were about to come true.
At the crack of dawn, the lucky three made their way to the village square. The first light was cutting through the trees, creating an aura of mystery and hope.
The first thing they noticed was the old man, who stood in the center of the square. In front of him was a big box. He saw them approaching and smiled.
He then began to speak. “Today, you will have the chance to make the best of your dreams come true. Each of you will place two of your most coveted dreams in the box. The box will be shut. I will then summon the eastern breeze and open the box. The breeze will scatter your dreams in different directions. You will have to chase and catch your dreams. Once you catch your dream, it is yours.”
The villagers thought hard about their dreams and finally placed two each in the box. The youth dreamed of a beautiful wife and a successful business. The middle aged woman wanted a grand house and a super-fit body. The elderly man wished to relive his youth and to win a million in the lottery.
The old man, true to his word, shut the box, then opened it and whistled to the eastern breeze. The breeze swooped down and scattered their dreams.
The youth gave chase like a man possessed. With the vigour of the very young, he ran, climbed, swam and committed feats worthy of a champion athlete. But his dreams still eluded him. Exhausted with the effort of it all, he stopped at a river and bent down to drink from its cool depths. As he lay resting, a dream floated past him. He put out his hand, but let it go when he realised that it was not his dream. It was the dream of the ‘grand house’. He made a last ditch effort to find his dreams, but was too weary. His final thoughts on the subject were that this was possibly a hoax. He then gave up.
The Middle Aged Woman
The Middle Aged woman couldn’t prance like the young boy. She shuffled along at first, then broke into a slow jog. Years of neglecting her body, had taken its toll. Despite going over some serious ground, she still couldn’t locate her dreams. She grew breathless, and took a break at a nearby well to quench her thirst. As she was drinking thirstily, a dream wound its way to her. Without giving it much thought, she put her arm out and caught it. Alas. It wasn’t her dream. It was the dream to relive youth once again. Tired and somewhat demoralised, she made a feeble attempt to pursue her own dreams, but soon grew bored and gave up.
The Elderly Man
The seventy five year old took off at a slow pace. His steps were unhurried as he tried to catch a glimpse of his dreams. At first, he couldn’t even see his dreams. The breeze had carried them far away from his line of vision. But he kept moseying along slowly. He would take short breaks to replenish his limited reserves of energy. He walked. And he walked. And he walked. But, still no dream in sight. Tired and thirsty, he stopped at a lake to soothe his parched throat. As he rejuvenated, a dream passed him by. He captured it, almost reflexively. It wasn’t his dream. It was the dream to have a fit body.
Once he had had enough of a rest, he began walking again. He had hardly traversed a hundred metres when he came across two dreams stuck on the branches of a tree. He couldn’t climb, so he picked up pebbles and tried striking the twigs, hoping that they would loosen their hold on the dreams. After a good hour of continued effort, the dreams floated down. He captured them both. It was the dream of a beautiful wife and the grand house.
As he began walking again, he realized that he was able to pace faster this time. His body was getting fitter with every step. He gradually began jogging, and came across an undergrowth thick with shrubs and bushes. After a whole lot of prodding and pushing, he came through to the other side, only to find that another dream was caught in his sleeve. The dream of winning the million dollar lottery.
Ecstatic and joyful, he began making his way back to the village square. As he was about to reach the village square, he caught sight of the woman and the youth, treading cautiously, looking weary and disappointed. He then noticed that following them was the dream of a successful business. He attempted to attract the attention of the boy and the woman, but they were so lost in their own thoughts that they didn’t notice him. Or the dream. He finally snatched the last dream as well.
The three of them had finally reached the village square and noticed that the whole village had gathered there.
The old man asked them if they had managed to capture their dreams.
The youth was the first to speak, “Old man, why did you con us? What is the meaning of this? I couldn’t find any of my dreams. This is a big hoax I tell you.”
The middle aged woman was next, “I managed to catch only one dream and it wasn’t mine.”
The elderly man said, “I’ve had a most interesting adventure. I went in search of two dreams and caught five. This was a great idea, to be sure.”
The whole village began talking excitedly. They wanted to know how this could happen. Hadn’t the old man said that all three would be given a chance to fulfil their dreams? What was the meaning of it all? They told the old man that if he didn’t have a good explanation for this farce of a game, they would imprison him.
He sat down, smiled mysteriously and began :
“The world has changed. The trouble with youth today, is that they have become too cynical. They read books, watch television, listen to the experiences of people older than them and think they know everything. They don’t want to experience for themselves.
The youth in the beginning was full of vigour and energy, but when his dreams were not in sight, he gave up quickly. He was quick to dismiss the whole thing as a hoax. Young people have stopped believing in the magic of dreams and think about everything too practically. They will make an effort, provided they are able to see the results soon. If they do not obtain results in a short timeframe, they abandon the effort and their dreams.
The dream of the grand house did come to him. He could have captured it, but he didn’t. When we are chasing our dreams, our tunnel vision, sometimes causes us to lose sight of other opportunities and blessings along the way.
On the other hand, the middle aged woman, weary with lugging her share of life’s baggage, still made an attempt to capture her dreams. Her lack of enthusiasm and vigour caused her to accept just about any passing dream. With a result, she got a chance to relive her youth and live her life all over again. Certainly not the dream she wanted, but one that she captured unknowingly.
Sometimes, in life, when our trials cause us to scramble around with no direction, we reach out to grasp at a passing straw. This straw may well be what it takes to get us to other good things in our life. In this case, the woman can relive her whole youth again and do everything differently if she wants to.
The elderly man has lived a fair deal of his life witnessing happiness, sorrows, life, death and has experienced its various nuances. He had nothing to lose when he set out today. He kept going steadily, took time to re-energize and never gave up. When he didn’t see the dream he was looking for, he grabbed whatever he could in that moment. Though he kept pursuing his dream, he never passed up opportunities along the way.
He was told that he could capture only two of his dreams. But he refused to listen and captured all except the chance to relive his youth. Sometimes, you may listen to people who do not have your best interests at heart or do not sufficient knowledge to know any better. They may tell you that you are only allowed to do this or that. But nobody has set any boundaries here on earth. You can dream big, dream small and also enjoy the opportunities and blessings that come your way.”
“At the end, the dream of a successful business was right near the youth and the middle-aged woman. The elderly man tried to bring it to their notice but they were so lost in their own weariness, that he ended up catching that one as well.
There are times when our dreams are so close to being realized but we are so bogged down in the wearisome task of daily living, that we don’t notice this. Thus, it frequently happens that someone else takes advantage of the opportunity that should have been ours.
The only dream that the old man didn’t capture, was the dream to relive his youth. But, why would he now want to relive his youth? The life he leads hereon in his grand home with his beautiful wife, a successful business, super-fit body and a million dollar winnings will be better than he could have ever hoped for in his youth.
Sometimes our life gets redirected. We may not get everything we had initially set out to gain. But what we do get may be better than what we had planned for ourselves.”