I heard this story years ago and was reminded of it a couple of weeks ago when I heard it in a series again. It is a story of a Chinese farmer and I take solace in hearing it.
The story goes like this:
Once there was a Chinese farmer who worked his poor farm together with his son and their horse. When the horse ran off one day, neighbors came to say, “How unfortunate for you!” The farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
When the horse returned, followed by a herd of wild horses, the neighbors gathered around and exclaimed, “What good luck for you!” The farmer stayed calm and replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
While trying to tame one of wild horses, the farmer’s son fell, and broke his leg. He had to rest up and couldn’t help with the farm chores. “How sad for you,” the neighbors cried. “Maybe yes, maybe no,” said the farmer.
Shortly thereafter, a neighboring army threatened the farmer’s village. All the young men in the village were drafted to fight the invaders. Many died. But the farmer’s son had been left out of the fighting because of his broken leg. People said to the farmer, “What a good thing your son couldn’t fight!” “Maybe yes, maybe no,” was all the farmer said.
I used this story recently during a talk with a friend. We spoke about making decisions and the uncertainty that is involved. We talked about the fact that this is often a black-and-white thinking. Either everything will be great, or everything will be a disaster. However, this is often not the case. We experience far more grey than black or white. We could call it 50 shades of life =). The good thing then is that every decision has both in it; black AND white. This can bring solace and more confidence in one’s decisions. I mean I should really tell that myself more often.
The Chinese farmer story is the perfect parable for this. We don’t know what will happen. Every event or decision has the potential to be both: a blessing and a catastrophe. Approaching life with a “maybe”-approach can help us to be more balanced. Even when we are struck by misfortune, we can say with confidence: Maybe. It gives hope in times of hardship and it helps us to stay humble in times of success.
Is my current situation bad? Maybe =).