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The Basket of Stones

A man and a woman were walking together down a very long road. They carried between them a large basket, which at the start of their journey together was empty. As they went along they, like everyone else, sometimes disagreed, fought, disrespected and committed other wrongs against the other, and the offending party put a stone into the basket each time that happened. But they enjoyed each other's company and they enjoyed the journey, and early on in the travel the stones were small, pebbles in fact.

They laughed at the funny things, talked into the night about the weighty things. They planned and plotted and speculated about what lay ahead of them on the road. They collected stones, of course, but early on there were so few stones in the basket, and the act of adding a stone was so infrequent they didn't really think too much about the basket. And of course as they traveled they encountered challenges and events, joyous and sad, and they raised their children (who added their own stones to the basket), dealt with the death of loved ones and just all the things that travelers encounter along the road. Sometimes the couple would talk about the reason a stone was placed into the basket and oftentimes they could agree to let a particular stone go, and so usually the basket was manageable; sometimes heavy and sometimes light but always manageable.

After a time their basket began to slowly fill up and become harder to carry, even though they were each sharing the load. The man and woman started to lose focus on the journey and failed to notice (or perhaps care) that they were focusing less on the journey and more on the basket itself. And the basket was becoming heavier and heavier. And then something interesting happened: as the basket became heavier they started to spend more and more time talking about the basket. They began to blame each other for filling the basket up. And they fought. And so more stones were added. And they started to treat each other with disrespect. And more stones were added to the basket. And they started to turn on each other, and soon the basket began to fill with stones.

Over time the man and the woman seemed to stop caring so much about letting stones go as they did about putting stones in. In fact, they started keeping track of the stones: who put them in, why they were there, how long they had been there; virtually every single facet of the stones and their placement in the basket was the subject of much debate and dissention, but not one thought was given about how to how to lighten their load. "How can we lighten this load? You put these stones in and now you have to live with that" said the man, and the basket became heavier.  "It's not fair that I have to carry any of your stones" said the woman. "You put more stones in here than me and you have to suffer the consequences," and the basket became heavier.

As the days turned into weeks, and months and years the basket became heavier and heavier until finally the woman said to the man "why are we carrying all these stones with us everywhere we go? We have to get rid of them!"  But they were unable to agree on getting rid of the stones because (so they told themselves) they served as reminders of the pain they had each been through and that made them angry. "It isn't fair" said the woman "that you can treat me so poorly and just cast off the stone as if it was never there!" But of course the man knew the stones were there, because he, too, had to share this burden; it weighed him down as well. Sadly, it seemed that they were more interested in being reminded of the hurt and pain caused by the other than they were in moving forward along the road. They both wanted to have a constant reminder of all the bad that was in their companion on this journey, so much so that this was all they could see. Their walk began to slow, their conversation began to be silenced because the effort of carrying the basket became more and more of a struggle for both of them, and their journey became more and more difficult. And the basket grew heavier and harder to carry, until one day they could walk together no more; the basket was simply too heavy.

The woman, being wiser than the man, told the man that she did not want to walk alone, and that the only way they could continue on their journey together was if they jointly made the decision to let the stones go and empty the basket. The man thought about this and he had to agree that in fact the basket was simply too heavy to move, even with the woman's help. And the woman had to agree that it was too heavy to move the basket even with the man's help. They realized that they had two choices: lay their burdens down, their pain, their hurt, their anguish, their sorrow, their fears and their insecurities by emptying the basket, or declare their journey over, crushed by the avalanche of stones that filled their basket to the brim.

The moral of the story ......

We all carry baskets, some of our own making and some into which we allow others to place stones. Some we carry together with a companion, others we carry for other people. When you find you can walk no further on your journey what will you do? Will you empty the basket and move forward or will you simply leave the journey? There is no right or wrong, no blame and no fault, only a choice. What choice will you make?

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William A. Feinberg 1928 - 2001

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