A few weeks ago, I administered our final promotion exam of the 2012 to my students. When all had finished and (*sigh of relief*) passed, I concluded the test with the following famous story (of course modified so that the kids would get it and enjoy it), as a lesson in perseverance and what it means to move up to yet another level.
Once upon a time, a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well that the farmer had accidentally left uncovered. The donkey cried and cried, and the farmer tried to figure out a way to get the donkey out of the deep hole, however, the sides were too unstable to lower someone down with a rope to tie around the donkey, and as the donkey was panicky and thrashing about, he was concerned he or one of his farm hands might be injured and stuck down the hole too.
The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway, so it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited his neighbors to come and help, so they all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.
As he felt the dirt falling on him, the donkey, being a donkey, kicked and kicked. When that didn’t seem to help, he brayed and brayed. Once the piles of dirt hit the donkey, the animal found renewed energy, and brayed even louder than he had before. The men turned their eyes from one another and pretended not to hear the donkey’s pleadings. The donkey kicked up a fuss and made a terrible commotion, but no one came to help. The donkey cried, but as he tired and began to understand the hopelessness of its situation, he began to give up, and got quiet, and then he realized something amazing was happening.
The donkey realized that the dirt was a gift. With each scoop of dirt that fell into the well, the donkey shook off any that landed on it and then took a step up onto the top of the pile of dirt forming at the bottom of the well. More dirt, another shake and another step up.
The men kept shoveling; certain that they were burying the poor donkey. But as they were shoveling, the donkey was shaking off the dirt and stomping it into the ground below him. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey shook the dirt off and took a step up. As the men continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up. The men were busy shoveling so they didn’t notice what was happening.
A few shovel loads later, the farmer and neighbors finally looked down the well and was astonished at what they saw. The men were quite surprised to see the donkey, looking right straight at them. It was standing on top of all that dirt that had been dropped on it. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!
I love this story and I think its message is timeless and relevant whether you are 9 or 99. 2012, like any other year was full of ups and downs. It brought with it challenges for many of us as well as for our communities, our nation and even for Shin Ho Kwan and its leadership. Often times we felt just as that donkey might have felt…abandoned, left for dead, discouraged, mistreated. The metaphorical dirt was poured over our heads, and we were faced with a choice…either get buried by our problems, or shake the dirt to the ground and rise above the circumstances. As we look forward to a new year, may we be inspired by our friend the donkey!
Happy New Year to all of our readers! May it be a good one for you and yours.Looking forward to seeing many of you in less than a week at the Winter Retreat!shafferP.S. As many of you know, I also returned just a few short weeks ago (it seems even less!) from the land of Israel. While there I wrote entries for another blog at which I’m a contributing author. I am not sure the content is relevant enough to appropriately re-post here but if you are interested in hearing of my journey, you can find the posts by clicking here http://www.cbict.org/?s=rabbidenashaffer