Once upon a time a man set out to find a place where, he’d been told, lived the happiest people in the world.” When he came to the gates of a large city, he was met by a guide who took him to a house bearing the name “The House of Happiness.”
Just before they knocked at the door the guide asked if the man would like to first visit a house on the opposite side of the street. They went across. This house had a sign over the doorway which said, “The House of Sorrow.” Inside there was a large room, with a table running down the middle, loaded with food of every description. Around the table sat some very sad, hungry-looking people.
“Can’t they eat?” the man asked.
“Oh yes,” replied his guide, “But our custom forbids that anyone should pick up food with his hands, so everyone who arrives is given a pair of chopsticks. Even then it isn’t easy, for, as you can see, these chopsticks are five feet long. In fact, the people you see here are hungry and sad because they are not able to get the food to their mouths with such long chopsticks.”
The man and his guide went away, crossed the road, and entered the other house – “The House of Happiness.” Inside was a similar room, with a table down the center, laden with food. The people sitting around it looked well fed and happy. The man noticed that they, too, had 5 foot long chopsticks.
“How is it,” he asked the guide, “that these people have managed to feed themselves?”
The guide explained. “These people are well fed because they use their own chopsticks to feed their neighbour. So each feed the other, and all are satisfied.”
This simple story still resounds with me because of the lessons it presents. I can picture the people who did and didn’t use their chopsticks well. Will I be selfish or do what I can to help others? The quality of my life depends on how I use my chopsticks.