Stone Soup and other important Socially conscious Ideas

There are many versions of the Stone Soup story.  The one I am sharing is the only version I have run across personally:

During World War II a young soldier found himself isolated in a small French Town.  This particular town had little food and many of the inhabitants were starving.  It was desperate times for all.  The town’s people were reluctant to share what little they had out of fear for their own survival.  They watched the soldier carefully from curtained and shuttered windows to see what he would do.

They watched the soldier as he rummaged through the piles of discarded items that littered the streets.  Many people had left with what they could carry, leaving some things behind to lighten their loads.  He hunted for several hours before he returned to the fire he had built outside an abandoned building.  In his hand he carried an old dented soup pot, an old rusty fire grate, and a large kitchen spoon.  He had found a small trickle of water spilling from a broken spigot that used to provide clear spring water to the  the town square fountain.   He carried the pot to the fountain and  went about filling the old pot with the fresh spring water.    He then carried it back to his fire where he had placed, over the fire,  the metal grate that he had also found while foraging.  Then the town’s people saw him search the ruins until he found a stone, which he placed in the pot.  The soldier then sat down and waited patiently.

Soon the mayor of the town strolled by.  “What are you doing there?” he asked the soldier.

“I am making stone soup,” was the soldier’s reply.  The mayor rubbed his chin and proceeded to walk to his home that was just down the street.

The grocery store owner also stopped by to see what the soldier was doing.  “What are you cooking there?” the store keeper asked.

“I am making stone soup,” was the soldier’s reply.  The store keeper also continued to walk to his grocery store that was now barren of food.

Throughout the day many of the town’s people strolled by asking of the soldier.  Suddenly the mayor arrived a carrots in his hand.  “Can you use this carrot in your stone soup?” the mayor inquired.  “It isn’t much but you can have it.”

“Thank you,” the soldier said as he took out his pocket knife, cut up the carrot and through the pieces into the pot with a plop.  The mayor turned to the north toward where his office was.

Again, the store keeper arrived bearing two potatoes that he had scavanged from his ravished stores from his grocery. “I have these two potatoes.  Can you use them in your stone soup?”

“Why, yes I can.  Thank you!” he said as he again pulled out his pocket knife and cut up the potatoes into small pieces and threw them into the steaming pot with a plop.  The soldier sat back and waited patiently.

All that day people from the town would walk by offering a small amount of what they had to the soldier for his stone soup.  By the end of the day the smell drifted all through the town.  The town’s people gathered at the soldier’s fire and watched the soup boil.  When the soup was ready the soldier stood and addressed the crowd.  “All of you are welcome to share this pot of soup with me.”

That day the entire town was fed by that one pot of soup.  It was the first hot meal they had had in a very long time.  Alone, they had not even enough to feed themselves, but together, they were able to feed an entire village.

Now, this is not a story of charity but of helping each other.  Those who had a little shared it with the whole.  Those who didn’t have shared the reward.  I am sure that those who had not given went back to their homes and found things to share with the town.  I am sure that there were many other days of stone soup.  Those who did not have to give, gave of their time.  They hunted for more pots, started fires, gathered firewood, contacted people to help, and did what they could to contribute.  There was no charity here, but people working together to help each other.

Look around you.  Surly there are people, families, neighborhoods that can use your skills, expertise, or labor to improve their living standard just a bit.  Is there an abandoned building that can be raised and a park created in its place?  Is there a neighborhood watch group organizing in your neighborhood?  Why not join?  Is there a senior citizen that could use a plate of cookies and a bit of conversation?  Is there a young mother that could use a day just for herself?  Why not offer to watch her children for a day so she can relax and enjoy what ever her heart’s desire? And, while you are at it, why not share your parenting and child rearing skills with her.  Perhaps she doesn’t have anyone to mentor her.  Perhaps she doesn’t have someone she can talk to when she is stressed or worried.  Perhaps she needs your gentle wisdom to teach her the mothering skills she is lacking.  These are small things that can make a big difference

Are there parents who need a car pool?  Is there a school bus stop that needs an adult to watch the children until they are on the bus or to walk them home?  Is there an elderly neighbor who could benefit from a handy man, or is there  a neighbor child who needs a little extra money for doing small things around your home?

We are not islands.  What we do or not do affects others.  It’s the ripple effect.  Everything you do or don’t do sends out energy into the cosmos and in turn, it comes back to you.  This is not about charity.  This is about raising up the quality of life for yourself and others.  One hour a day once each week or every two weeks, is a small sacrifice to make someone else’s life better while  helping yourself in the process.  Not only are you raising up your neighborhood one person at a time, but you are teaching your children and other neighborhood children to give rather than to be takers.

You could organize an after school program where those who need to teach can come and provide the children with a varied insight into their lives and the lives of others.  Or, you could simply open your home to those children who may be latch key kids.  It used to be that multiple generations lived under one roof and the children benefited from the wise counsel of their elders.  Today, seniors are looked upon as a burden and as senile, having no value.  An after school program where those elders can share their vast knowledge and experience and perhaps change the views of their own generation toward young people as well as change the views of young people towards seniors, would be a benefit to any community.  It also gives the elders a sense of being needed and it provides the children with someone to look up to…surrogate grandparents.

It doesn’t take much to send a plate of cookies over to the widow next door.  It doesn’t take much to invite a latch key kid over for an after school snack with your own children.  Make sure you talk to the parents first, of course.  Nothing should be done without their knowledge and involvement.  Perhaps they can give a bit of their time to help as well.  Who knows, it takes a village to raise a child, and it only takes one person to change their neighborhood’s vision.  Why not start a neighborhood vision committee and hold a neighborhood barbeque or pot luck and discuss those things that your neighbors need.  You might be surprised at what you discover.

Now, on the same subject, I just received “The Most Important Gift Catalog in The World”.  It is called Heifer.   The Heifer International project was established to help people and families move toward self-reliance.  Through this organization if you give just $500.00 a heifer will be given  to a family in third world countries, or you can share the gift by giving $50.00 with others who can’t afford the entire cost. For $1,000.00  a family will receive a Milk Menagerie of four milk producing animals such as one heifer, two goats, and a water buffalo.  Or you can share the expense by giving just $100.00.  The gift of a goat is only $120.00 or $10.00 to share the gift expense.  A pig will cost you $120.00 or $10.00 to share the gift expense.  A sheep will cost you $120.00 or just $10.00 to share the gift expense.  You can give a Knitting Basket gift which includes 4 wool producing animals and the cost is only $500.00 or $50.00 to share the gift expense.    You can give a trio of rabbits for $60.00 or $10.00 to share the gift expense.  You can donate a flock of chicks for just $20.00.  You can even give the gift of bees for just $30.00.  If bees aren’t your bag, how about $150.00 for the gift of a Llama or $20.00 to share the gift expense.  Oh, and then there is the water buffalo.  $250.00 will give the gift of a water buffalo or $25.00 to share the expense.  There are also camels, oxen, donkeys, ducks, guinea pigs, and geese.  You can give the gift of tree seedlings as well as grass seeds so that the animals can be fed.  All this comes with training and instruction for the happy recipients.  So, this year, even though times are tough for us all, why not put the energy of generosity out into the universe so that it can come back to you.

“If you give a man a meal he can feed himself for one day.  If you teach him how to garden, he can feed himself for a year.  The Heifer program is not charity.  It is giving those in need a helping hand up so that they can in turn, give back to their families and their communities.  If we rid the world of hunger, we will rid the world of wars and we teach people to be self-reliant.

So go to:  http://www.heifer.org/gift

Chris

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~ by womenstudycenter on November 22, 2009.

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