To Help Themselves
Far away from here, at some
point in time, there was a kingdom
filled with people who loved gold.
They couldn't be called greedy,
because they really didn't have any
gold. And they couldn't really be
called lazy, because even though
they didn't do much else for
themselves they did spend
enormous amounts of time digging
in the ground and sifting and
sieving in river beds in hopes of
finally becoming rich.
One day, a cheerful young man
who was whistling merrily, clearly
delighted to be walking along in the
sunshine, came upon the diggers
and sievers. They looked up at him
sourly and told him to stop his
whistling at once.
"Should the king hear you,"
they said, "he's liable to put you to
death. He is miserably unhappy
because we haven't found gold yet.
He is poor, we are poor, and our
kingdom is an embarrassment. We
have nothing to whistle about."
"I'm not afraid of your king,"
laughed the young man. "In fact, I'd
like to meet him."
The workers looked surprised,
but as they were only too happy to
"Seven sacks full," came the
The amount he mentioned
shocked them into action. They
rushed him in to see the king,
where he told his story to the
"I order you to bring me your
gold," said the king.
The young man did not look
upset. "I'd be delighted to," he
answered, "except for one
problem." (Groans heard all
around.) "It will take time, and I will
need lots of help. The gold is kept
closely guarded by a seven-headed
ogre." (Louder groans, accompanied
by gasps of horror.) "If you give me
all of your people for one year I
quit the useless digging for a while
promise you that we will free the
they offered to take him to the
palace. On the way, they asked why
What choice did the king have?
he was so happy.
put it more accurately, what
"I'm content," he answered.
choice did all the king's men have?
"Why are you content?" they,
who hardly knew the meaning of the The king gave the young man his
men, plus the horses and oxen that
word, wanted to know.
had also been asked for, and
"Because I have lots of gold,"
warned them to do everything they
he told them.
were told or they'd never live to see
Their mouths opened wide and
their eyes glazed over. They stood
The first thing the young man
transfixed. "You ... have ... how
did was to order the men to bring
... much ... gold?" they managed
plows. He told them to plow the rich
and fertile land of the country,
already pockmarked from all the
gold digging. Then he had them
sow, and at harvest they reaped
seven wagons full of fine wheat.
Every once in a while the king
came out to check on the doings.
He was getting rather suspicious.
The wheat was the right color, but it
certainly wasn't the kind of gold he
had in mind.
"I'll have you beheaded if
you've betrayed me," he reminded
the young man from time to time.
"We need wheat to block up
the mouths of the monster," the
young man told the king with a
smile, and went whistling back to
his work. When the wagons were
ready, the young man set off with
them. After a week or so he
reached a big city that had to buy
its produce from outside. When the
merchants of the city saw the
wagons of wheat, they were
delighted to pay the young man his
asking price. And how much do you
think he wanted — and got — for
the wheat? If you said "seven sacks
of gold" you would, of course, be
When the young man got back,
the king was waiting for him outside
the palace gate. "Well?" he asked.
He could hardly restrain himself.
"Well?" In his anxiety his voice
rose higher and higher. "Have you
gotten the gold away from the
monster or haven't you?"
The young man smiled (how
infuriating smiles can be
sometimes). He said, "I sold the
wheat to people who don't have
fields in which to grow their own
wheat. They paid me the seven
sacks of gold."
The king began to make rapid
mental calculations. "Our soil is
very rich and we have many fields.
We could get many more than
seven wagonloads of wheat from
the earth each year." He looked
down at the ground and then, with
a rueful grin, up at the young man.
"I knew all along that gold could be
found here. I just didn't know the
right method for digging it out."
Although the king urged the
young man to stay on, and even to
live in the palace if he wanted, the
young man refused. Helping others
learn how to help themselves is
what gave him most pleasure, and
he didn't see any reason to retire
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS