A Momentous Meeting Delayed-The Best Laid Plans

The young Rabbi had a full day’s walk ahead of him.  He’d been honored with a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet and converse with a great sage.  The young man himself was a promising scholar, already known for his erudition as well as his kind deeds.  The rendezvous was scheduled for sundown and he was invited to spend the night with the holy man.

He walked with a fast and determined gait, his eyes are fixed on the road beneath his feet, his head filled with the  burning questions he was eager to ask. Suddenly he almost collided with a burly peasant who was struggling to right his huge overturned hay wagon.

“You!” Shouted this stout and fierce looking man. “Give me a hand and together we’ll get this wagon back on the road.”

The  young man quickly glanced at his watch. Then, taking in the size of the wagon, he replied.“But that’s impossible. It’s much too heavy for just  the two of us. Five men couldn’t do it.” 

“You only say that, because you don’t want to help me. Get over here right now and let’s get to work.”  His manner was so demanding that there was no possibility of resisting.  

They struggled for a long time, trying one thing and then another.  Finally, they devised a plan to use one of the wagon’s planks as a lever, and with a mighty heave turned the wagon right side up. 

“I told you that we’d lift this cart and we did!” grunted the peasant as they loaded the last of the spilled hay on the cart. “And now, since we are traveling in the same direction, let us go together for a while,” he continued. 

After they proceeded silently for several miles, the young rabbi who had been lost in thought, asked,

“Why did you say to me that I didn’t want to help you?”

“Why? The peasant answered. “Why? Because if you really wanted to help me you wouldn’t have said that it was impossible before you tried.”

“Fair enough,” the young Rabbi conceded.  

They continued down the road for another hour before he spoke again.

“What I really want to know is how it was that you were so sure that we could lift the cart?”

“That’s easy brother,” replied the peasant.

“You were sent my way to help.”

“Really now my new friend,” exclaimed the Rabbi somewhat skeptically. 

“I suppose the next thing you’ll be telling me is that the wagon turned over in the first place just so that I’d come along to help you lift it.”

The peasant clapped the Rabbi around the shoulders in a warm embrace and with a wry smile said,

“Yes, that’s it, that’s it exactly!”

With that, suddenly, the peasant, the cart and the hay were gone!

The young Rabbi turned towards home.  He knew the longed for meeting would not take place at sundown.  At least not that night.

As so often happens, a story comes to you at ‘just the right time.’  Or perhaps as in the case of The Appointment, it’s one that you’ve heard or read before, but this time, it really shakes you awake.

A few days ago, Thich Nhat Hanh, the revered Buddhist teacher and peace activist passed away at age 95. On hearing the news, I lit a candle and then went to my bookshelf to take down one of the many volumes of his work that hold a treasured place in my library.  Peace Is Every Step. The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.

Writing about dwelling in the present moment, Thich That Hanh wrote,

“Our appointment with life is in the present moment.”

Stories from an Eastern Coffeehouse, adapted by Elizabeth Retivov, was on our coffee table, opened to the most recent story I’d read that day, this one, The Meeting.  (This has been my adaptation of her adaptation of a tale I’ve not seen anywhere else)

“Our appointment with life is in the present moment.”

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