After many years of hard work, the time came for this well regarded farmer to retire. And so he gathered his three children around the family dining room table, his task being to choose the heir who demonstrated the greatest wisdom to continue the development and further the prosperity of his well known orchard. This decision would not be based on any favoritism, but on the demonstrated ability of his successor to resolve issues that would invariably arise - with wisdom. To this end , he gave the following task to his three children.
After telling them of his plan for retirement, he took from an envelop three crisp twenty-dollar bills, handing one to each of his children. "You are all familiar with the empty barn that stands between the old outhouse and the first line of apple trees" he began. They all nodded knowingly. In fact that barn had been a fixture of the farm long before they were born; and they knew it very well, it having been the location of many of their childhood ...and young-adulthood adventures. "Well I want each of you to use the money I have just placed in each of your hands to purchase something that that will fill that barn to capacity. I will be inspecting and judging your efforts, and the management of this orchard will go to the one of you who accomplishes this task most completely. This place is sacred to our family, and to the communities around us. It is my desire to see it continue to flourish under the wise management of the one of you who demonstrates the wisdom and the discretion that the task requires." To this they all agreed, and having clarified the outstanding details of their father's instructions, they sat down to dinner together.
Now this is how each heir filled the barn up...
The first to attempt the task went out and gathered a large amount of straw and dried leaves, which was then used to stuff the barn to what they thought was its capacity. So much was forced into the available space therein that the door could only be closed after the application of much force. Feeling very accomplished, the old farmer was then summoned with great excitement at the end of the day to come see the completed task. "And with what did you fill the barn?" he asked the first of the three to complete the task. "Well father, I used all the straw and loose leaves we could gather. I paid one of the field hands to help me stuff the place, and I still have a dollar left over!". The old man thought for a moment, and then with a wry smile he said "OK then. Lets take a look at your effort in the morning and see how you did." By morning of course, the stuff had settled under its own weight... as it usually does. Thus effort number one came up short.
The second effort suffered a similar fate. In this case a large quantity of loose dirt which was slated for disposal was instead brought in, and with the help of "one of the men", used in the same way as the straw and trash to fill the empty space in the barn. Three hours of labor at minimum wage brought the project in under budget. The father was now more than a bit concerned, but he held out hope. He had spent time raising his children, teaching them the many things he had learnt throughout his life. He had faith that his efforts to meaningfully raise his three children would bear fruit. He was not to be disappointed.
The third effort to fill the barn was nothing short of inspired. With the money given, a lamp was bought... Oil was bought for that lamp... And matches to light the lamp. As darkness fell on that day the remaining heir called his father and the other two siblings to the barn. Wondering what he could have done that was not already attempted, they all approached excitedly. By now it was dark. They entered the barn to find the glass lamp lit and hanging from a beam in the very center of the barn. Realizing the genius of this effort, they all smiled and embraced each other. The place was filled with warmth ... and light. There was no doubt in any of their minds as to who the new steward of this orchard should be.
Our attempts to fill the empty spaces in us, and around us, will benefit greatly from thoughtful approaches that go deeper than the usual dirt and trash that we are often drawn to as solutions to the challenges we face. The progress and prosperity we aspire to will come to us when we make ourselves available to the illumination that comes with Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding. It is this illumination that we will need as we seek to emerge from the dark places in which we will find ourselves from time to time along the many roads of our lives.