It was a hot, very hot, day in South Africa. Tom took off his brown hat that was soaked in sweat and dabbed his bald head dry with his handkerchief. After returning his hat to his now relatively drier head, he huffed and said, “Well this is a predicament! They will simply have to move homes.”
Tom was English and had come down to South Africa purely based on business. A week ago this small village that sits at the bottom of a majestic waterfall, had gone through some horrific weather conditions. The wind speed was treacherous. It had uprooted so many plants and small shed-like homes that people relied on. But what was most detrimental was the waterfall stopped delivering to the people. The small village that sat beside the waterfall relied hugely on it as their main source of water.
At the top of the waterfall, there was a forest of magical trees. However, during this storm, a few of these very large and heavy trees were uprooted. The power of the wind ripped them from their firm grasp in the Earth causing them to fall with a thunderous thump across the very peak of the waterfall. After the first tree had fallen, the water managed to seep beneath, over and around the lifeless tree, bringing bits of bark and dirt with it. However, as the wind howled and howled, it caused more and more trees to loosen their hold in the Earth. One by one, the trees began to tumble downwards. You could hear the cries of the trees screeching as the wind carried their voices to the near-by village sitting and witnessing the horrifying scene. About 5 or 6 trees had landed at the peak of the once flowing waterfall. The cries of the trees began to fade as the mighty winds moved further and further away from the village. The wind swelled and flew throughout the rest of the distant forest and the village could just make out the sounds of the trees crying with fear. They could also make out the occasional creak, which was then followed by a thump, as yet another tree went crashing to the ground.
This story the village told upset Tom and he was adamant to help them. He spoke to the village council and spent some time alone thinking about their options. He approached the village with his proposal, “Those trees that are blocking the flow of water are simply too heavy and large to move. You lack the equipment required to move these trees hence you all have only one option. Instead of walking up and down the waterfall multiple times a day, I suggest you move your home to the top of the waterfall.”
The council erupted with words from their mother tongue. They pulled all sorts of expressions. One man stood up and threw his arms into the air, then pointed at Tom aggressively before walking out of the room. The head counsellor looked at his men whilst placing his index finger to his lips to signal them for silence. He turned to Tom and smiled at him before saying, “Thank you for your support, Tom. We know you have the villages best interest at heart. But this is our home. Generation after generation we have lived here in peace and harmony. We are not about to uproot ourselves from this sanctuary of ours. There needs to be another way.”
Tom threw his hands up in the air and replied with, “This is the only option you have! There is simply no more I can do to help you,” At that moment, Tom walked out never to be seen by the village again.
A few months had passed and Tom was now in England sitting at his desk, typing away. In the background, the TV was playing and something caught his eye. He saw the waterfall on the screen. It certainly took away its majestic and magical feel when shrunk to the size of a pencil in the corner of the screen. The news reporter was smiling and speaking about the storm that hit this village and the concerns of the waterfall. She introduced the head counsellor and allowed him to speak.
“We were hit with a tragic storm that cast doubt on our own survival. But we survived. With perseverance, kindness from others and not losing faith we got through this ordeal. The trees are now gone and our water once more flows again, nourishing my people”
Toms jaw dropped. He was in complete shock. How did they manage it? On the TV screen, they showed a close-up of the waterfall. Sure enough, there was no sign of trees at the peak of the waterfall. The water threw itself over the edge and plummeted to the water below.
Tom sat back into his chair and folded his arms across his chest. His jaw slowly returned to its original position and his lips stretched into a smile. His smile grew and he began to laugh. He shook his head and laughed some more. All these months Tom had been furious at the decision made by the council. He was sure that they would soon decide that Toms viewpoint on the situation was the most sensible and realistic option. However, he was very wrong indeed. Tom was suffering all these months at the stupidity of their decision, where in fact he didn’t need to. If only he saw it from the point of view of the village and then maybe he could have helped them work out the problem from a different angle.
“People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don’t suffer any more” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Removing those trees from the peak of the waterfall allowed the villagers to no longer suffer. By Tom releasing his viewpoint on the situation, he too is now free from suffering, as are the people in the village.