Life is such an interesting adventure, isn’t it? You just never know when wisdom is going to show up, stick out its hand to shake yours, and then proceed to expand your world view in a flash of unexpected sagacity. It’s one of my favorite things that happens in life, and I have been blessed with my share of wondrous and growth-producing conversations, and chance encounters. I have come to think of them as signs on the roadway of life steering me in the direction of my journey, in the same way that signs on a highway provide geographic guidance. Let me share an example of uncommon wisdom that has stayed with me ever since I received it from a kindly stranger.
I was a guest speaker at a church service a few years ago, and after I had finished, some of the people in the audience came up to chat with me. One of them was an elderly man who waited patiently to speak with me while holding a folded paper in his hands. We shared a brief conversation, and I learned that he was a retired minister who had given many sermons in his long career, and one of them was printed on the paper that he held in his hands. It was titled, The Parable of the Pencil. He could not recall where he had gotten it, or who had authored it, but, based on my talk, he felt sure that I was a kindred spirit who would enjoy sharing it in future presentations. He gave it to me, we smiled at each other, and he walked away, blending into the crowd. Even though I returned to that church a number of times later, I never saw him again.
As it turned out, my sweet messenger was right: I have enjoyed sharing the Parable with other audiences and it always seem to please people. Perhaps because of its simple prudence, or because the metaphor of a pencil is easy to remember. Here it is for your enjoyment and inspiration:
“The Pencil Maker took the Pencil aside just before putting Her in the pencil box. There are five things you need to know and must never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be.
One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand.
Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you will need it to become a better pencil.
Three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make along the way.
Four: The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.
Five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.
The Pencil understood and promised to remember, and took her place in the box with purpose in her heart.
Now replace the Pencil with You.
You will be able to do great things but only if you allow yourself to be held by a purpose greater than yourself and allow other human beings to access you for the unique gifts you possess.
You may experience painful problems and go through difficult times but these will help you become a stronger, more resourceful, and resilient person.
You will be able to make amends and correct mistakes you might make in life.
What is inside – your spirit, your heart, your soul – will always be the most important part of you.
On every path and situation you walk through you must leave a mark and make your contribution using the special talents only you possess.”
In closing, I usually add some final words of encouragement, such as, “Never allow yourself to become discouraged and think your life is insignificant; the world is regularly changed by one person with a brave heart, a good idea, or a sense of purpose. Playing small will not serve the world – you are meant to shine and manifest your gifts to the world. There will never be another you; you are unique and you have a unique contribution to make in order to leave the world a better place than when you found it. “
My closing words are spoken in recognition of the gentle stranger who waited to give me the story he himself had told many times before, and of his desire to pass it on to a kindred spirit in order to keep the circle expanding. Well met on that Sunday – seeking to inspire, I have been inspired by him ever since.