Connecting to Others: We are all Connected

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A man in a boat began to bore a hole under his seat.When his fellow passengers asked him what he was doing he answered: “What do you care? Am I not boring under my own seat?”

from The Busy Soul: Ten Minute Spiritual Workouts Drawn from Jewish Tradition, by Rabbi Terry Bookman

In my past five posts I have shared stories on how to connect to others. The truth is we are all connected but much of the time we just don’t see it. I hope these stories have cleared your vision to see the connection. Monday we move to our connection to God.

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Connecting to Others:Share Troubles

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This story is dedicated to my wife for her commitment to share troubles. That commitment has kept us connected to each other, and to hope. Thank you, Carol.

Long ago and far away in the Land of the Rising Sun, there lived a pair of mandarin ducks. The drake was a magnificent bird with feathers of colors so rich and beautiful that the emperor himself would have envied it. But his mare, the duck, wore the quiet tones of the wood, blending exactly with the hole in the tree where the two had made their nest.

One day, while the duck was sitting on her eggs, the drake flew down to a nearby pond to look for food. While he was there, a hunting party entered the woods. The hunters were led by the lord of the district. He was a proud and cruel man who believed that everything in the district belonged to him to do with as he saw fit.

The lord was always looking for beautiful things to decorate his manor house and garden. And when he saw the drake, with its magnificent colors, gliding across the surface of the water, he decided to capture him.

His chief steward, a man named Shozo, tried to discourage his master. “My lord, the drake is a wild spirit. Surely he will die in captivity.”

But the lord pretended not to hear Shozo, because although Shozo had once been his mightiest Samurai, the warrior had lost and eye in battle and was no longer pleasing to look upon. The lord ordered his servants to clear a narrow path through the undergrowth and place acorns along the path.

When the drake came out of the water, he saw the acorns. How pleased he was! He forgot to be cautious, thinking only of what a feast they would be to take to his mate. One by one he picked up the acorns in his beak.

Just as he was bending to pick up the last acorn in his scarlet beak, a net fell over him, and the frightened bird was scooped up, carried back to the lord’s manor, and placed in a small bamboo cage.

The lord was delighted with his new pet. He ordered a feast to be prepared and invited all the wealthy landowners from miles around, so he could show off the drake and brag about his wonderful feathers.

But the drake could think only of his mate sitting alone on her eggs, not knowing what happened to her husband.

As the days wore on, his crested head began to droop. His lovely feathers lost their luster. His once proud, wild cry became first a weary CRONK, and then he fell silent.

No matter what food the kitchen maid brought him, he refused to eat. “He is grieving for his mate, the girl thought, for she was wise in the ways of wild creatures.

The lord, who liked things only as long as they were beautiful and brought him honor, grew angry when he saw the drake was ailing.

“Perhaps we should let him go,” suggested Shozo, “since he not longer pleases you my lord.”

But the lord did not like anyone telling his what to do, much less a one-eyed servant. He refused to release the drake, ordering instead that the cage be put out of sight in the back garden so that he would no longer be annoyed by the bird’s sad appearance.

When Yasuko, for that was the kitchen maid’s name, saw that the drake had been cast aside, she determined to save his life. One night, when there was no moon, she crept quietly into the garden. Without a sound she opened the door of the cage and gently lifted the drake out. Since he was now too weak to fly, she carried him to the edge of the forest and put him on the ground. The drake shook himself, turned as if to bow to Yasuko, and blended quickly into the night.

In a great house, there are always those who delight in causing mischief. So it was that by noon the next day the news of the drake’s disappearance had reached the ears of the lord.

Now, even thought the lord no longer desired the drake, he was furious at the thought that someone else should take what he considered his own. Immediately he called for Shozo.

“Why have you stolen my drake?” Shozo simply bowed his head. He said nothing in his own defense. For although he had not done so, he’d often wanted to release the drake. To his honest mind, desiring to unlatch the cage and actually lifting the latch were one and the same.

the lord ordered that Shozo be beaten and stripped of his rank in the household. Although he had once been a brave Samurai–second only to the lord himself–he was now forced to haul the waste and scrub the toilets.

When Yasuko saw how he had been humiliated, she told Shozo what she had done and begged him to let her confess. Shozo forbade her to tell anyone saying, “Why should two suffer for one crime?” But he took great comfort in her concern.

As the days passed, Yasuko and Shozo grew to love each other, and their love shone so brightly they could not hide it. Eventually the mischief maker told the lord of their love, and Yasuko and Shozo were called into his presence.

“It is apparent to me,” he said, “that the two of you have conspired to rob me of my beautiful drake. Until now I have been merciful, but you have taken advantage of my good nature. Therefor, I must make an example of you to all who would resist my will. You are hereby sentenced to death by drowning.”

Since the lord’s word was law, there was no way to oppose him. He called to his guards, had the criminals bound, and prepared to march to the pond for execution.

But just as they were about to set out, two messengers arrived at the gate. It was obvious from their rich dress that they were persons of great importance.

“We have been sent by the emperor,” they told the lord. He has had a vision in which he was ordered to do away with capital punishment throughout the empire. Therefore, if there is anyone in your district under the sentence of death, you are directed to send him to the Imperial court at once.”

The lord was angry with this order, angry enough to kill the messengers who had brought it. But he knew he had no choice. He commanded his guards to march the condemned couple to the capital.

Now the march was a five day journey. As the days wore on, Yasuko and Shozo became weary and began to lag behind the guards. At the end of the third day, in the middle of a deep wood, the unhappy pair were so tired they could not walk another step. The guards yelled at them to hurry up and butted them with the ends of their spears. The truth was that the guards, who seemed so brave, were afraid in the dark woods.

As night fell and the darkness deepened, Yasuko and Shozo could hardly see one straw sandal step ahead of the other. Before long they realized that the guards had left them behind. They were alone, without food or drink, in the middle of the cold forest. They tried to stumble on through the blackness but soon lost the path.

“Aaaiee!” cried Yasuko. “See what I have done. If it was not for my foolishness, we would be back at the manor, safe and warm.

“Hush,” said Shozo. “It is not foolishness to show compassion for a fellow creature. Besides, what danger of the forest could match the cruelty of our former master?

“I wish my hands were not tied behind me,” Yasuko said. “I don’t think I would be afraid, if I could take hold of your hand.”

“Come here,” said Shozo. “Lean your shoulder against mine. Then we will not lose each other in the darkness.”

Suddenly, they heard a rustling sound in the bushes. The two stood as still as stone pillars, trying not to be frightened.

“Ah,” said a kind voice, “We have found you. Don’t be afraid. We will take you to a place where you can rest.”

“Who are you that speaks to us out of the darkness?” Shozo asked.

“We are the imperial messengers,” replied another whose form was also hidden by the thick night.

Yasuko and Shozo knew they must obey, but they couldn’t help being a little afraid. They could see nothing in the blackness, and the rustle of the messenger’s silk garments made a ghostly sound as they walked ahead.

Finally the four of them came to a tiny clearing in the forest. There in the moonlight stood a hut made of wood and grass.

The messengers took Yasuko and Shozo inside. First they lit a lamp. They they untied the ropes that bound them and gently massaged their wrists. Each of them was allowed a long soak in a great wooden tub filled with clean hot water.

When at last Yasuko and Shozo were dressed in fresh kimonos, a wonderful feast was set before them. The two servants ate gratefully, too tired to wonder how the messengers had come upon such delicious food in the middle of a forest.

After they had finished eating, mats and quilts were laid out for them n the floor, and they fell asleep at once.

In the morning, Yasuko and Shozo awoke to the smell of rice seaming and bean soup bubbling in an iron pot. But the messengers were no where to be seen.

“We have failed to thank them for all their kindness,” Yasuko said. They jumped up and ran to the door of the hut.

There on the path were a pair of mandarin ducks. The drake was a magnificent bird, with feathers so rich and beautiful the emperor himself might have envied it, while his mate, the duck, wore the quiet tones of the woods.

The pair turned and seemed to bow. Then lifting themselves into the air, they flew straight and swift as arrows fly, above the highest trees.

Yasuko and Shozo lived on for many years in their hut of wood and grass. They had many children who gave them much happiness–and a little trouble. But as they had learned years before, trouble can always be borne when it is shared.

(Adapted from “The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks” by Katherine Paterson.)

Nothing connects two human beings like a commitment to sharing trouble together. My wife taught me that as she shared the trouble my Dissociative Identity Disorder brought to our marriage and my career. If she had not shared my trouble I would have perished.The trouble we shared together in the end made our marriage and friendship stronger.

In an age of easy-in-easy-out marriages, so many would rather bail out than dig in, and our lives and society are the poorer. May this story encourage you to make a commitment to share trouble with your family, your friends, your spouse. And in that commitment may an unbreakable connection be forged!


If you missed the interview with Diane Eble about my book, The Cracked Pot: Finding Grace in the Cracks of  Childhood  Abuse, you can listen to the replay at:  Many people emailed in thought provoking questions about healing from abuse and forgiving abusers.

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Connecting to Others: Build Bridges of Forgiveness

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Anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness are the great disconnectors of human relations. Here’s a story to help you reconnect when pain from the past severs a relationship in the present.

Old Joe lived way out in the countryside, and he had one good neighbor. They’d been friends all their lives long. It seemed that they had grown old together. And now that their spouses were dead and buried and their children raised and gone, all they had left were their farms and each other.

But for the first time in their long relationship, they’d had an argument. And it was a silly argument. It was over a stray calf that neither one really needed. It seemed as though the calf was found on Joe’s neighbor’s land and so he claimed it as his own. But Old Joe said, “No, that calf has the same markings as my favorite cow, and I recognize it as being mine.”

Well, they were both a bit stubborn, so the upshot of it was they just stopped talking to each other. That happened about a week before, and it seemed that a dark cloud had settled over Old Joe, until there was a knock on his door.

He wasn’t expecting anybody that morning, and as he opened the door, he saw standing before him a young man who had a box of wooden tools on his shoulder. He had a kind voice and rather dark, deep eyes, and he said, “I’m just a carpenter, and I’m looking for a bit of work. Maybe you’d have some small jobs here and there that I can help with.”

Old Joe wasn’t the kind of fellow to hire someone off the street. So he brought the carpenter into the kitchen and gave him some stew that he had on the stove. There was some homemade bread Joe had baked earlier that morning, some fresh churned butter, and homemade jam. While they sat, ate, and talked, Joe decided he liked this young fellow, and he said, “I do have a job for you. Look right there through my kitchen window. See my neighobr’s farm across the way? And you see that creek running right down between our property lines? That creek wasn’t there last week. My neighbor did that to spite me. He took his plow up there with a tractor and dug a big old furrow from the upper pond and then he flooded it.

“Well, I want you to do one better. Since he wants us divided that way, go out there and build me a fence–a big, tall fence–so I won’t have to see his place any more.”

And the carpenter said, “Well if you have the lumber and the nails. I got my tools, and I’ll be able to do a job that you’ll like.”

Joe had to go to town to get some supplies, so he hitched up the wagon and showed the carpenter where everything was in the barn. That carpenter carried everything he needed down to the creek side and he started to work.

His work went smooth and fast. It was about sunset when Old Joe returned and the carpenter had finished his work. And when Old Joe pulled up in that wagon, his eyes opened wide and his mouth dropped open because there wasn’t a fence there at all.

It was a bridge, going from one side of the creek to the other! It had handrails and all–a fine piece of work–and his neighbor was just starting to cross the other side of that bridge with his hand stuck out, and he was saying, “Joe, you’re quite a guy to build this bridge. I would never have been able to do that. I’m so glad we’re going to be friends again!”

And Joe put his arms around his neighbor and he said, “Oh, that calf is yours. I’ve known it all the time. I just want to be your friend too.”

About that time the carpenter started putting his tools in the box and then hoisted it up onto his shoulder, and he started to walk away. And Joe said, “No, now wait, come on back, young fellow. I want you to stay here. I have lots of projects for you.”

The carpenter just smiled and said, “I’d like to stay on, Joe, but you see, I can’t. I got more bridges to build.” So he walked on, but the tale stayed here.

How about you? Do you need to build a bridge?

“Old Joe and the Carpenter” is a tale from the United States retold by storyteller Pleasant DeSpain and found in Peace Tales by Margaret Read MacDonald

The replay of Diane Eble interviewing me about  my book, The Cracked Pot:Finding Grace in the Cracks of Childhood Abuse, and my storytelling, Heart Tales, is available at . If you order a copy of the book through the link on that page and send me your Amazon order number and a problem or issue you’d like a story for I’ll email you a story that addresses your problem or issue. Go there now, click the link, and follow the directions to order your book and request story.

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Connecting to Others:Honesty

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Acceptance and listening begin our connection with others. Today’s  story shows us how to maintain it.

A young man married a woman whose brother was blind. The young man was eager to get to know his new brother-in-law so he asked him if he would like to go hunting with him. “I cannot see,” the blind man said. “But you can help me see when we are out hunting together. We can go.”

The young man led the blind man off into the bush. At first they followed a path that he knew and it was easy for the blind man to tag along behind the other. After a while, though, they went off into the thicker bush, where the trees grew closely together and there were many places for animals to hide. The blind man now held on to the arm of his brother-in-law who could see and told him many things about the sounds that they heard around them. Because he had no sight, he had a great ability to interpret the noises the animals made in the bush.

“There are warthogs around,” he would say. “I can hear their noises over there.” Or, “That bird is preparing to fly. Listen to the sound of its wings unfolding.”

To the brother-in-law, these sounds were meaningless, and he was most impressed at the blind man’s ability to understand the bush although it must have been for him one great darkness.

They walked on for several hours, until they reached a place where they could set their traps. The blind man followed the other’s advice, and put his trap in a place where birds might come for water. The other man put his trap a short distance away, taking care to disguise it so that no bird would know it was there. He did not bother to disguise the blind man’s trap, as it was hot and he was eager to get home to his new wife. The blind man thought his trap was disguised too. But any bird could tell that that there was a trap there.

The men returned to their hunting place the next day. The blind man was excited at the prospect of having caught something, and the young man had to tell him to keep quiet, or he would scare all the animals away. Even before they had reached the traps, the blind man was able to tell that they had caught something.

“I can hear birds,” he said. ” There are birds in the traps.”

When he reached his trap, the young man saw that he had caught a small bird. He took it out of the trap and put it in a pouch that he had brought with him. Then the two of them walked towards the blind man’s trap.

“There’s a bird in it,” he said to the blind man. “You have caught a bird too.”

As he spoke, he felt himself filling with jealousy. The blind man’s bird was marvelously colored, as if it had flown through a rainbow and been stained with the colors. The feathers from a bird such as that would make a fine present for his new wife, but the blind man had a wife too, and she would also want the feathers.

The young man bent down and took the blind man’s bird from the trap. Then, quickly substituting his own bird, he passed it to the blind man and put the colored bird in his own pouch.

“Here is your bird,” he said to the blind man. “You may put it in your pouch.”

The blind man reached out and took the bird. He felt it for a moment, his fingers passing over the wings and the breast. Then, without saying anything, he put the bird into his pouch and they began the trip home.

On their way home, the two men stopped to rest under a broad tree. As they sat there, they talked about many things. The young man was impressed with the wisdom of the blind man, who knew a great deal, although he could see nothing at all.

“Why do people fight with one another?” he asked the blind man. It was a question which had always troubled him and he wondered if the blind man could give him an answer.

The blind man said nothing for a few moments, but it was clear to the young man that he was thinking. Then the blind man raised his head, and it seemed ot the young man as if the unseeing eyes were staring right into his soul. Quietly he gave his answer.

“People fight because they do to each other what you have just done to me.”

The words shocked the young man and made him ashamed. He tried to think of a response, but none came. Rising to his feet, he fetched his pouch, took out the brightly colored bird and gave it back to the blind man.

The blind man took the bird, felt it over with his fingers, and smiled.

“Do you have any other questions for me? he asked.

“Yes,” said the young man. “How do people become friends again after they have fought?”

The blind man smiled again.

“They do what you have just done,” he said. “That’s how they become friends again.”

“A Blind Man Catches a Bird” from Peace Tales by Margaret Read MacDonald

Acceptance and listening establish our connection with each other, honesty maintains it.

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Connecting to Others:Listening

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If acceptance is the first step in connecting to others, listening is the next step. As you will see, this story about listening connected me to others AND to God.

There was once a time when my heart was broken, broken by a man who stole, who stole my wife from me. This story brought healing to my heart and caused me to become a storyteller. It’s called “Ivar’s Tale,” but I call it my story. And it goes like this.

There was once a famous poet and storyteller from Iceland who won fame in the court of the king of Norway, the court of king Eystein. Now the king thought much of young Ivar and did many favors for him and for his brother Thorfinn, who also lived in the court of the king. But Thorfinn was jealous and unhappy. For he thought that his brother was getting all the glory and that his gifts were going unnoticed. So Thorfinn decided to return home to his native country of Iceland.

Before Thorfinn left Ivar asked him to carry a message to a young woman called Oddny. The message was that Oddny was to marry no one until Ivar returned in the spring. Well Thorfinn left and had a good journey. He returned to Iceland and met Oddny, and he himself asked Oddny for her hand in marriage. So when Ivar returned in the spring, he found that his own brother had married the woman he loved. Ivar was filled with sadness as he returned to the court of the king, brokenhearted and bitter.

Everyone in the court, and especially the king, noticed the change in young Ivar. The joy in his singing had disappeared. The enthusiasm in his stories had waned. Ivar was a sad person. One night after the meal was over, the king called Ivar to his seat and said in a low voice, “Ivar, Ivar, tell me, what troubles you so?”

“I’m sorry, my lord, but I am unable to discuss it,” came the reply.

The king knew something was deeply troubling Ivar, so he said, “All right, Ivar, I will guess, for I know something troubles you and I want to get to the bottom of it, Tell me, Ivar, is there someone in the court whose presence offends you in some way?”

Ivar looked at the king and shook his head, saying, “No, my lord.”

“Well then,” the king demanded, “do you think you are not given enough honor?”

Again Ivar shook his head no.

The king continued with his questions. “Tell me, Ivar, is there something in my land you desire?”

“No, my lord,” came the reply yet again.

The king pressed further asking, “Is there a house or and estate that you long for?” This time when Ivar shook his head the king saw that the issue was a woman. He looked Ivar in the eyes and asked, “Is there a woman, perhaps in your country, that you long for?”

Ivar fell silent, and the king knew he had asked the right question even before Ivar nodded yes.

“Well then, Ivar, there is no problem with that. I am the mightiest king in this part of the world, and no one would dare interfere with my wishes. The next ship that leaves for Iceland will have you on board, and you shall carry a message from me to the young girl’s parents stating that it is my wish for the two of you to be married. No one in Iceland or anywhere else in the world would dare interfere with the wishes of King Eystein!”

Ivar looked at the king and said, “My lord, even that will not help.”

“Do you mean she is already married?” the king asked.

“Yes, my lord,” Ivar replied simply.

“Well then, Ivar, we’ll have to think of something else. The next time I make my rounds of the countryside and visit the villages and towns and castles, I’ll take you with me. In our travels we will meet many beautiful women and perhaps your heart will find one to meet its deepest longings.”

Ivar’s eyes filled with tears as he said, “Oh no, my lord, not that! Every time I see a beautiful woman, she reminds me of Oddny and my grief. I cannot bear it.”

“All right, ” said the king, “let’s try something else. I know! I’ll give you land, a huge estate. It will keep you busy farming, taking care of the livestock, and tending to business matters. With your hands full of the work to be done, you’ll soon forget about the woman, and your old joy will return to you.”

“But, my lord, I have no ability to farm,” said Ivar.

“Hmm,” said the king, “then I’ll give you money! I’ll give you a huge some of money so you may travel wherever your heart wishes, to the farthest corners of Europe if you wish. In your travels you’ll have many adventures. When you’ve experienced some new things, you will forget about your troubles and be happy again.”

Ivar only shook his head.

The king fell silent. He was unable to come up with anything to help Ivar in all his sorrow. After a time, he said, “Ivar, there’s one last thing I can think of. It’s a weak suggestions compared to the others I’ve made, but perhaps it will be of some help to you. Ivar, each night after the meal is over and the tables have been cleared and the business matters of state have been taken care of, I invite you to come here to my throne and tell me the story of your feelings of love for this woman Oddny. I will be here to listen to you for as long as you need.”

Ivar thought for a moment, and then he agreed to the king’s proposal. That night and each night afterward, Ivar came to the throne of King Eystein, and there he told him his story. He told the king his story for days and weeks, and for many months. Each night after Ivar finished telling part of his story, the king would not let him leave without a small token of his love and care for Ivar. So each night after his story had been told the king would give Ivar a handshake, a hug, and a small but meaningful gift.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, Ivar found that he had told his story. And when he had told it, his old joy returned to him. So Ivar began to sing again and to tell stories, the ancient stories that the Scandinavians love so dearly. Ivar became once again not only a famous poet and storyteller, but also a happy man. In the year that followed, Ivar met a young woman from Norway. The two fell in love and became one. Ivar and his wife spent the rest of their days in the court of King Eystein, happy and telling stories.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard this story. I was living in a little 12-by-12 efficiency apartment after my separation from my first wife. I was standing at my ironing board ironing a pair of pants for work, listening to a tape called Storytelling for Self-Discovery, by Dr. Robert Bela Wilhelm. When I heard the story of Ivar, I put down my iron, sat on the edge of my water-bed, put my face in my hands, and wept. I wept because I knew I had heard my story. For you see, I had been telling the story of my broken heart to someone who became for me the ear of my Heavenly King. In telling my story to my King, my old joy returned to me. About a year after having heard the story of Ivar for the first time, I had the privilege of telling it back to the man who told it to me. So the story went full circle, from teller to listener to teller, and the its circle left my heart mended, and me a storyteller.

Ivar’s Tale is adapted form “Ivar’s Story” in Hrafnkel’s Saga and Other Icelandic Stories, translated with and introduction by Hermann Palsson, Penguin Books, 1971.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”— Karl Menninger

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Connecting to Others: Acceptance

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With this post we move from the theme of “Connecting to Your True Self” to “Connecting to Others.” Connecting to your true self gives your life authenticity. Connecting to others gives you community. Here’s a story by Dan Keding that speaks of the first essential ingredient for connecting to others. The story is called “The Dragon’s Tear” and you can find it on his CD “Promises Kept, Promises Broken” or in The Healing Heart–Communities, edited by Allison Cox and David H. Albert. The tale goes like this…

Once there was a shepherd who lived in the foothills of a great mountain range. His job was to take the sheep each day up into the high valley to graze. His task wasn’t hard because his dog did almost all the work. She herded the sheep, guarded them, and brought them back at the end of the day. The boy usually found a shady spot where he could sit and play his guitar. While the sheep fed, he would play the old songs that his grandparents would sit and play each night. He would sing and play each song over and over again until he knew it by heart.

One day, he and his dog took the sheep into the hills farther than they’d ever gone before. There they found a valley with long, lush grass. When the sheep saw the grass they ran into the valley with the dog at their heels. The boy explored the gray hills around him and soon found a rocky cliff. Against the face of the cliff there was a cave so dark that he could see only a few feet into it. At the mouth of the cave there was a big rock, and there he sat down to play his songs.

He played for an hour. He played for two. And then he got hungry. He put down his instrument and reached for his lunch.  That’s when he heard a fierce voice say, “Don’t stop playing.” The voice shook the ground.

The boy turned around, reached for his guitar, and was going to run when the voice said, “Please.” So the boy played.

After the boy had finished, the voice in the cave told him a story. Then the boy played again, and the voice told him another story. And so it went all day, story for song, song for story. At the end of the day the boy was filled with wonder. The voice in the cave asked, “Will you come again?” “Yes, tomorrow,” said the boy.

Every day the boy returned to the cave. And every day he heard more stories. Stories of knights in battle, stories of adventure, stories of romance, stories of great humor and great sadness, stories of promises kept and promises broken.

One day, the boy stayed later than ususal. As the sun dropped low over the valley, the voice in the cave grew sad and began to tell its own story, one of loneliness and fear. As the boy listened, he understood that the storyteller was the last of its kind.

Soon the rays of the evening sun began to reach deeper and deeper into the cave. As the boy watched, he saw the light glint of razor-like talons and climb up powerful legs. Then it reached a huge body that was covered with scales and stretched deep into the darkness.

Finally, the light followed a long, serpent-like neck that arched to hold a great head. Wreathed in smoke and framed by curving horns, the head swayed as the creature spoke. The boy was looking at a dragon.

As he stared at this amazing sight, the boy saw one tear fall from the dragon’s eye. Stepping forward, the boy reached out and touched a leathery wing. Suddenly, the great golden eyes of the dragon flew open.

“Aren’t you afraid of me?” the dragon roared. “No,” laughed the boy. “I could rip you apart with my claws,” growled the beast. The boy smiled. “I could reduce you to a pile of ash with a single breath,” thundered the dragon. The boy looked deep into the dragon’s eyes. “I can’t be afraid of you,” the boy said softly, “I know your story.” The dragon stared deep into the boy’s eyes and nodded. “Will you come again tomorrow?” said the dragon with longing in his voice. “Yes,” replied the boy.

Every day, for many days, the boy came back to listen to the dragon’s tales and share songs of his village. One day, as the sun began to set, the boy picked up his guitar and turned to face the dragon.

“Why do you stay here alone? asked the boy. “You could live in the village. My people would love your stories.” The dragon laughed. “Your people and my people have been at war for a thousand years. If I came to your village, the men would reach for their swords and spears and there would be a great battle. Many would die, maybe even I.”

As the dragon spoke the boy relaized that the dragon’s words were true. He made himself a promise to find a way to help his friend.

That night he listened to his grandparents sing and play. When the music stopped, his grandmother said, “Isn’t it sad that no one comes to visit our village anymore? They all go to the village by the river. And we have such good singers, don’t you think?”

Hearing his grandmother’s words, the boy had an idea. Without waiting for even a minute, he ran to the mayor’s house and pounded on the door. The mayor answered the door.

“What are you doing here at this time of night?” grumbled the mayor. “Is it true that people have stopped visiting our village?” asked the boy. “Yes,” said the mayor sadly. “Everyone has forgotten us. Why do you ask?” I know someone who could bring the people back. A truly great storyteller.”

The mayor smiled. “A storyteller. Yes, everyone likes a good story! I’ll go and meet this teller tomorrow and invite him to our village.”

“No. That will never do,” said the boy. “You see, he is very shy. He lives in a cave. You will scare him.” “A shy storyteller?” I’ve never heard of such a thing. How am I going to meet him?” “Well, maybe if you were blindfolded you wouldn’t scare him.” Blindfolded?!” “Yes, I’ll take you and the village elders to meet him. My dog and I will lead you there.”

The next morning the boy and his dog led the mayor and the village elders to the dragon’s cave. Before they reached the top of the last hill, the mayor and all the elders pulled their blindfolds up and tied them fast. Holding hands they followed the boy. When they reached the mouth of the cave, they sat in a circle on the ground.

The dragon slowly stepped out into the light and began to tell his stories. He told them stories of adventure that stirred their blood, stories of romance that warmed their hearts, and funny stories that had them rolling on the grass. The dragon told them sad stories that made them cry through their blindfolds. Finally, he told them his own story of loneliness. As he spoke, one great tear rolled down his face and landed on the mayor’s hand.

Slowly the mayor lifted his blindfold, looked down at the tear, and then looked up. With one hand he reached out and touched the dragon. With the other hand he tapped the woman next to him. She took off her blindfold and reached out. Around the circle it went, until each person was touching the dragon.

The dragon opened his golden eyes and looked at the mayor. the mayor looked back. He saw an ancient face, creased with untold years of wisdom.

“We have come to ask you an important question,” said the mayor. Will you come to our village and be our storyteller?”

The dragon smiled a toothy grin. “Yes. Yes. I will.”

The mayor turned around and looked at all the surrounding hills. Then he turned to face the dragon again. “May we ask you one favor?” asked the mayor with a smile. “Anything!” roared the dragon. “May we have a ride?”

The mayor, the village elders, the boy and the dog, climbed up onto the dragon’s back. He unfolded his huge wings and flew them home.

People came from far and near to hear the dragon’s stories of promises kept and promises broken. Years later, when the dragon passed on, he didn’t die alone in a cave. He died surrounded by his friends, his great head resting on the lap of a man who had once been a boy and had sung him songs. All the hate and all the fear had disappeared with one tear.

Never underestimate the power of acceptance to make life changing connections!