When you work for social justice and human rights – when you work towards any long term goal, it is very easy to get frustrated and give up. It is very easy to stifle the creativity and enthusiasm of those who are new to the work, to squash their ideas saying: we already tried that, and it didn’t work. That dog don’t hunt!
Here is a story that reminds us, you just never know. Just don’t give up. And ALWAYS keep an open heart – and an open mind.
I read this story in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Thundering Silence: Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Catch a Snake. (1993). Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
One day while a father is away from his home in a small village, a band of terrorists came to the village, pillaged, plundered, burned all of the houses to the ground, and kidnapped all of the children, including the man’s son. When the father returned to the village, he was overcome with grief. He saw the charred corpse of a child in the ashes of what had been him home. He wept inconsolably, beat his chest, and performed funeral rites for his son. Then he put the ashes into an embroidered pouch, which he carried around his neck wherever he went, as was the custom in his culture.
Many months later, after the village had been rebuild, the man’s son was able to escape from the terrorists and the boy found his way home. That night, at about midnight, the boy knocked on the door of his father’s rebuilt home. But the father held tight to the pouch with his son’s ashes with tears streaming down his face refused to open the door. The child called out his name, but the man was convinced that his son was dead, and that the child at the door was someone mocking his grief. Finally the boy gave up and went away. The father and son remained separated.
If we are immovably convinced of our conclusions, if we close our minds and hearts to new and renewed experiences and expressions of love, even when love and truth knock on our door, we will refuse to let them in. In Emma, Jane Austen offers an important caution, lest we presume knowledge more comprehensive than it is: “Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken.” Remember: there are no immaculate perceptions! Always be open to trying once more with feeling.