The man, the boy and the donkey

I would like to share my favourite story, a story which I first heard as a child and love it for its relevance in this age of social media.

A man and his son were once going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along by his side a countryman passed them and said, “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?” So the man put the boy on the donkey, and they went on their way.

But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said, “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the man ordered his boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other, “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his boy up before him on the donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passersby began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at.

The men said, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours — you and your hulking son?”

The man and boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, until at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them until they came to a bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the donkey fell over the bridge, and his forefeet being tied together, he was drowned.


The moral of the story is please all and you will please none.

The story has another moral to me, that is seeing from a different perspective. How many times did we not make the same mistake as the countryman, townspeople and passersby who pass judgments on others or issues without understanding the context and expecting the other end to listen? Sometimes, I think the problem with this society is learning when to keep your mouth shut. People are overeager to express their point of view and to have a say. If I think the father and son are foolish for trying to please everyone, am I not the same as the annoying insensitive passersby? Words can kill. In this case, it is the donkey who drowned. I must remember that when I point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back at me. As a result, I keep a lot of comments to myself (not wanting to become one of the passersby and knowing that I am no saint either) but this also becomes a vicious cycle as I need to find an avenue to vent out my feelings.


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