A healthy perspective for relationships: Part 2

A very common problem that I come across when speaking to people is lack of direction, lack of meaningful relationships and lack of purpose. I’m going to tell you a story about a woman’s request to find a mustard seed from a home that knew no sorrow.

I was in Indonesia in 2007 just after the tsunami, which had wiped out and killed hundreds and thousands of people. I heard a story about a lady’s home, which had been wiped away in the devastating flood, and with this she had also lost her husband, her two children, her brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents.

Her home had been the family’s main source of income via farming their animals so they could in turn contribute back into their surrounding village, so this lady had lost everything, and as the months went by, her desperation and hurt grew and enhanced and became so overwhelming she didn’t know what to do. She made her way to the holy man to try and alleviate her hurt by begging for help. The holy man told her that he could help, but he needed her to go on a quest to find for him a mustard seed from a home that knows no sorrow. He told her he would use the mustard seed to soak up the pain, suffering and torment from her life.

She went out into the village and began to think about where she could go to find this mustard seed, and she thought of the village leader who lived in a beautiful mansion up in the hills and received money and produce from all the other villagers. On arriving at the door, she explained her quest and its cause, but the leader explained,

“Dear woman, I’m so sorry. Mustard seeds, we have plenty, but this is not a home that knows no sorrow. My son is struggling with his sexuality, he doesn’t know if he’s a boy or girl. My daughter was caught pickpocketing last week, and the police have got her up on charges for theft. We have so much sorrow in this home, dear woman, I’m so sorry. I would love to be able to help you, but we can’t, we have so much sorrow ourselves. I bid you all the very best on your quest, dear woman.”

Dismayed, the woman carried on. As she was walking back down the drive, she wondered who she else could go and see. She thought of one of the local business owners who owned a shearing factory that had begun exporting overseas, thus generating quite a lot of income for the village. She knocked on the door of the business owner’s house and explained her sorrow, her pain and her quest. The business owner stopped and said:

“Dear woman, I’m so, so sorry, we’re facing economic downturn. I’m facing having to shut down elements of the business and laying people off. I may have to make people unemployed in this season, which could devastate some families. This is causing me such torment I don’t know the best way to handle this. Dear woman, I’m so sorry, I’m in so much sorrow. Mustard seeds, I have plenty, but sorrow I have much. We cannot be the home that gives you the mustard seed, we know so much sorrow. I bid you all the very best for your quest.”

The woman carried on her quest, walking back down into the village and going from home to home. She began to grow more aware that other people had lost family members, businesses and homes, and her eyes were opened to the fact that there wasn’t a home that knew no sorrow.

She acquired a boat and sailed across to a neighbouring village on the other side of the lake in a last bid to find a home that knew no sorrow, but as she walked round the village, all she experienced was the same, so she began to comfort the surviving villagers, as she understood and knew what it was to hurt and she knew what it was to know sorrow.

It wasn’t the mustard seed in the end that soaked up the sorrow from her life, because she realised there was no home that knows of no sorrow. What soaked up her sorrow was her ability to connect and emphatically relate with others based on an understanding of what it is to hurt. Hurt and pain don’t disappear but they do alleviate in time, and I wonder in life whether sometimes the pains, the hurts and rejections that we face could be signposts pointing us in the direction of which we are to travel. In the end, this woman who’d lost everyone used her pain and suffering to comfort and console the lives of others.

I guess that the principle we could take from this story may be: Imagine how strong and meaningful our lives may become if we were to focus on the needs and problems of other people, or of those that we enter into relationship with – and in turn were to focus less on our own needs and preferences?

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