Once there was a farmer who owned a beautiful plot of land at the behind his farmhouse. Wanting to protect the beauty of this land, the farmer enclosed it with fences, so as to prevent trespassers from entering it. One day however, a group of children decided to climb over the fence and started to play on that beautiful plot of land. They played baseball and soccer and tag and all sorts of games which tore up the beautiful land, which naturally displeased the farmer greatly.
The farmer walked out into his backyard and tried to chase the children away, but no matter how hard he tried, they simply ignored him. Being a rather old man, he realized after awhile that it was pointless for him to try outmatch the children physically. Day after day went by and still the children would not get off his property. The farmer realized that he would have to try a different tactic. So one day as the children were playing on the plot of land, the farmer walked out to meet with them. He didn’t say anything…he just gave each child a dollar coin (I guess this story takes place in Canada) and walked back into his farmhouse.
Naturally, the children were puzzled. But nonetheless, they each kept their dollar coins, and continued playing.
The next afternoon, as the children gathered to play on the plot of land, the farmer again walked out to meet with them. He didn’t say anything…but this time he gave each of them TWO dollar coins and walked back into his farmhouse.
This puzzled the children even more. Why is the old farmer giving us money? they wondered. But nonetheless, they continued their games and thus continued destroying the farmer’s land.
And so it went…Each day, the children would eagerly await the farmer to appear from his farmhouse to give them dollar coins. And true enough, each day while they were playing and running, the farmer would give each child ONE MORE dollar coin than the previous day. But soon the children stopped playing and simply sat around in the grass until the farmer came out to them.
This gift-giving went on for several days. The children had now grown impatient, instead of playing or even just sitting, they began to fight and bicker as they grew restless waiting for the farmer. After five consecutive days of gifting these coins to the children, first while they played, then while sat, and then while they quarreled, the farmer simply stopped appearing from his farmhouse and the children received nothing.
Every one of them went home that evening disappointed. The seventh, eight, ninth and tenth days followed, the children showed up to play but still the farmer did not appear.
By the eleventh day and every day after that, not a single child returned to play on the farmer’s land.
This story makes an interesting statement on gratitude and our expectations. The farmer was successful in getting the children to leave eventually because he created an expectation in them that he then disappointed, leaving them discouraged. Forget the farmer’s apparent hatred of children for just a second as I’m not sure that’s the point of the story. Rather, it is the children themselves who allow for the story’s insight. They had a beautiful place in which to play (despite the fact that they broke the law to get there) and yet, when the coins were introduced, each child eventually forgot why he had come there in the first place.
Sometimes in our own lives, we too are in possession of something wonderful – say, for instance, a great martial arts instructor who gives willingly of himself and offers both his time and his wisdom – and yet, when new things are given, or we begin to expect something else, something more (a new rank perhaps, or the chance to participate in some sort of special group within the school), we cease to be satisfied and grateful for what we had to begin with. This is dangerous, for that wonderful thing is often fragile, special, and precarious, and it can be taken away from us as quickly and as easily as those coins were from the children.
Just some post-thanksgiving martial arts thoughts!