I don’t know who originally came up with this story, but it’s an old Chinese parable that I often think about. Today it has definitely rang true! Here it is in my own words:
Many years ago, in rural China, there was a farmer who lived quietly with his family on a small plot of land. His family was healthy and happy, but did not have much in the way of material possessions. They worked hard, together, tending to their garden and plowing their fields.
One day, the farmer awoke and discovered that his old quarter-horse, a horse that he depended on for years to plow his fields, had escaped through a broken fence and was nowhere to be seen. A neighbor came by and saw the farmer in his plight, and cried out at the bad luck facing the old man. The old man calmly replied, “good luck, bad luck, who knows,” and went about his business.
A few days later, hearing the thundering sound of hoofs outside his cottage, that farmer looked across a far away hill and saw a whole herd of horses making their way to his horse pen. His old trusty quarter-horse has indeed returned, and brought a few friends! The same neighbor, bearing witness to this amazing sight cried out “wow, what great luck you have!” The farmer calmly replied, “good luck, bad luck, who knows.”
The farmer’s son, seeing the wild horses sitting in the pen, decided to start breaking them in. It was tough work. One day, a stallion bucked and knocked him to the ground, terribly breaking his arm. It was a busy time of year, and his support was desperately needed to work the land. The neighbor saw the plight of the family and cried “wow, what bad luck you have,” to which the father replied, “good luck, bad luck, who knows.”
While his son was recovering, the father was out drawing water for his horses. He saw a battalion of men marching down the lonely road. The captain of the troop came up to the home, and asked if the old farmer had any able-bodied men in his household. The region was at war and they were conscripting all men to fight!
The father could not hide the fact that he had a son, and the captain walked into their home. Upon seeing the state of the boy, with a broken arm, he decided that the boy would be of no use to the military, and the troop kept on walking. Upon seeing this, the neighbor cried out…”what good luck you have!” to which the father replied….”good luck, bad luck, who knows…”
..and so the story continues…
We never know what positive outcome might eventually come from a seemingly hopeless situation. Sometimes the silver lining will show in the course of a few minutes or even a day. Other times it takes decades. We just need the patience to see things play out over the long-term.