A Land Far Away
Once there was a young man named Maury who lived in a faraway land that few people visited. This land was populated with all manner of strange animals and bizarre landscapes. Trees grew to be two-hundred feet tall and creatures never seen anywhere before roamed its mysterious woods. Some of these had two heads and others had multiple tails. Some were large and ugly; some were small and attractive. They were all unique, that was for certain. They came in all sizes, shapes and colors and bore little resemblance to animals located elsewhere in the world. Here, there were no rivers or streams to speak of; however, there occurred regular showers that provided water to the vegetation and assured sustenance for all the inhabitants of this mysterious area.
All of these creatures lived in relative harmony until one day a stranger arrived in their midst. This stranger had very poor manners and odd ways of communicating with the residents of this forest. He would yell at them to get out of his way, push them aside or intimidate them with his great variety of weapons. This was a very unhappy man. He had been banned from his own homeland by neighbors and acquaintances because of how poorly he treated them. Over the past few years he had become more angry and surly than previously. It was thought that this change might be due to the loss of his wife who had died of a terrible illness. Until that event he had been a more reasonable man who was just given to periodic outbursts of temper, no more or less than other individuals living in his area. So this change in behavior had caught his contemporaries by surprise.
It was when this man’s wife died of that very rare disease that his demeanor changed for the worse. He yelled at or attacked anyone who came near him. Eventually he had upset nearly all of the people in his home area. These individuals finally had enough and made the decision to have him banished from their land. That is how this surly man came to this place where Maury and the strange creatures of this forest lived. His former villagers did not know who or what resided in these strange woods. All they cared about was that this location was a good distance from their home area and they would be well rid of this grouch who had become intolerable to bear.
So when the stranger first arrived here, he was unsurprisingly angry as ever. He cursed and swore and threatened vengeance on his former villagers. His bitterness made him unapproachable. The creatures in this wooded area had never seen anything like this before. They had become used to Maury who was always even tempered and amiable. They expected that all humans would be like this. Maury treated them with respect and fairness. They in turn respected and honored him even though he was as different from them as they were from each other.
When this strange angry man appeared in their midst, the creatures of this land became understandably distraught. They were not used to being yelled at, let alone attacked or threatened in any manner, so they had no idea how to deal with this. Many of them experienced feelings they never felt before – hurt, anger, rage, dismay – all very unpleasant feelings with which they had little experience. A delegation representing all of the creatures was sent to see Maury in order to address the impact of this intruder. Along the way questions such as “Should we kick him out?” came up. “Should we physically remove him?” others asked. And, ultimately, “What can we do to be rid of this blight?”
When the delegation arrived at Maury’s home, they were quite excited and speaking all at once. “A strange man has come into our midst. He is obnoxious and surly. He upsets us very much. He threatens us and calls us rude names. We want to be rid of him. Help us please to get rid of him” they cried out. Maury listened intently and acknowledged their great distress. He told them he could see their hurt and suffering, and he could easily understand why they wanted to be rid of this man.
Maury suggested there might be another way to deal with this intruder and shared with them a plan. He explained that the behaviors they had observed were not unknown to him. He had seen them displayed by others back where he once lived. Maury believed that this situation could be handled in a more productive fashion than by just casting this individual out. He suggested that all of the creatures present return to their homes and put on their finest attire. Then would they please join Maury at the location where the surly man was last seen.
“What we require here is a celebration,” he told them, “rather than a condemnation. We need to celebrate because a lost soul has found his way to us and, rather than reject him, we should welcome him in our usual friendly manner.”
“We,” he went on, “can continue to be our usual happy selves if we choose to. And let’s see how he responds to us then. We already know how we are affected by his outbursts and surliness. Let’s see how our customary demeanor affects him.”
Maury’s point was well taken. All of the creatures went to their homes to put on their finest attire and then headed for the clearing where the stranger had been last seen on this day. As they approached the area the man jumped up and started yelling again. Maury motioned for all to stay calm and to continue to approach slowly. The man yelled louder and began to make threatening gestures. The group continued to move closer. Maury then stepped forward and greeted the man
“Greetings, good sir, welcome to our forest. How may we help you?” he asked.
“By leaving me alone,” the man shot back.
“I see,” Maury continued. “You wish to be alone. But we of the forest invite you to join us in our celebration.”
“What celebration?” the man grumbled.
“Well, when a new creature arrives in our midst we all gather and put on our finest attire to welcome him and make him feel at home.”
“Why would you do that?” the man growled.
“Because we all have been lost at one time or another sir, because we all have felt rejected and afraid, and, because we all have felt angry about one thing or another and needed to yell at life in return.”
The man seemed to relax at this point and then began to speak in a quieter, less aggressive tone.
“Well, for such a strange group of creatures, you seem to know quite a lot about people who are not from here. How is it that you know how I feel?”
“Because,” Maury replied, “my friends and I have felt the same at one time or another. Look closely at us. Are we not odd? Are we not the strangest bunch of creatures you have ever seen?”
“Yes, you are,” the man replied. “Now that I look at you, I can see that you are indeed an unusual group of individuals.”
“And that is why we live here,” Maury continued, “because no one in the outside world would accept us as we are. If we did not conform to their expectations, or meet their particular standards of appearance, we were driven away. Eventually, we all wound up here.”
“So, how did you get to be so friendly?” the man asked.
“Well, in the early days of our arrival here, we were not so friendly. We also yelled and threatened each other. But then one day we began to talk about how we came to be here and about our losses and hurts. As we shared with each other our feelings of pain and rejection, we started to feel better. We then made it a practice to talk with each other regularly and to engage new arrivals as soon as possible. But it’s been so long since we had a new arrival that many of us have forgotten how to behave. We had not considered our own losses for some time now, so we didn’t recognize where you were coming from at first. But, as you can see, we do now and we wish to welcome you among us.”
The man looked dumbfounded; he was sad and happy at the same time. He recognized that he was welcome and he acknowledged their kindness. He asked them how they could be so friendly when he had been nothing but rude from the moment he arrived. He went on to share that he had never experienced this level of acceptance before, even back when things were going much better in his life. He admitted that his biggest hurt began when his wife died, but that there had been hurt in his life before this tragic event. It seems our surely man was so pleased at how accepting his audience was that he simply wanted to share everything with them. There was something in the air; that was certain.
Our surly man continued to share his life story with the creatures of this strange land. He apologized for being so rude to them earlier. Now that he felt free to speak a look of relief began to spread over his face. Maury then stepped forward to shake his hand and formally welcome him again. He assured him that the apologies would be accepted and began explaining how things were perceived and dealt with in this strange land.
“First, we acknowledge and value all life forms. We make no distinctions and place no greater priority for one individual over another. All present here are important and contribute to the fabric of our existence. We have learned that we need each other. What one of us cannot do another can and so on, so that all our needs are met. We have all come to appreciate and value these unique contributions.”
“Second, all creatures, great or small, require Love. There is no exception to this rule. We believe that even the inanimate objects in our midst require love, so we make it a priority to provide each other with that basic nourishment.”
“Third, we value each other’s uniqueness. Within this great diversity we are strong and capable. Because of our differences we can help each other in unique ways, and we have accomplished great things as a result. Our diversity is our strength. In the outside world, where conformity presides, our distinctive features were considered aberrant and we were usually condemned. Most of us were banished from these areas because of our unique yet unusual capabilities. In this realm, where cooperation reigns, we accept these differences and we celebrate them. Our view once again is that diversity means strength and, what others have rejected about us, we have demonstrated to be of great value.”
“There is no waste here. A creature with three tails can swat more flies than another with one tail. An individual with two heads can carry on multiple conversations and look at an issue from two sides at once. A two-hundred foot tree may deliver little shade but does provide a platform from which to view incoming weather patterns, the migration of birds, and the approach of strangers. Everyone has a useful function; everything here has value. Even an angry, surly man such as yourself can provide value if we can help you get through your pain.”
“Fourth, we believe that all creatures, all persons, all living things are basically good. And we’re willing to bet that a surly man is angry because of some trauma or injury rather than as a function of character or disposition. We have yet to be proven wrong on this, and you sir are the latest arrival to substantiate our belief. For a while there many of us forgot these premises and were ready to cast you out. However, we soon remembered and we’re happy to welcome you as is our usual custom. Now, you sir can join us if you wish and share with us your vast experience and knowledge. We will be enriched by that sharing and blessed by your arrival here. Will you join us then, and share what you have to offer?”
“I will” the man replied enthusiastically, “and I thank you for receiving me so warmly. You are truly and incredible group of creatures and I appreciate your generous invitation. Please let me repay this kindness by offering you whatever talents and abilities that I possess, so that I too may make a contribution to this unique and wonderful place.”
And a resounding “cheer” was heard far and wide as all the creatures of this “land faraway” rejoiced with their new arrival. Another lost Soul had been salvaged by being rescued from the grip of his former pain and losses. Another flower in God’s great garden was beginning to bloom and celebrate his life and value. Our stranger, who was so surly and sad, began to express himself anew, this being aided by the support and friendship of his new found friends. As a result his pain began to heal and the losses from the past receded. Through the freeing up of his creative self-expression, this once surely man began to thrive again, a blessing for all to be sure.