Five Smooth Stones

One day a man sat beside a lovely tree-lined rocky stream. The kind of place one could sit for hours soaking in peace as the flowing water carried off your worry and stress.

Sitting there that day the man thought of his troubled world. To him, it all seemed like a mighty giant, a Goliath, filled with rage impossible to overcome. One by one the man thought of the troubles, the struggles, the injustice, and the darkness. He searched them hoping to discover an exploitable weakness but ultimately gave up.

As the man sat with bowed head, the tears rolling down his cheeks were carried away by the stream. “Thanks for this moment,” he said with a sigh to the creator of the stream as the last teardrop fell. It was at that moment when the air stirred, trees rustled their leaves, and a sparkle of light caught his eye has it bounced from a nearby stone.

The flat, rounded, and plain stone was nothing special. It had neither the speckles of granite or the stripes of sandstone. The man picked up the stone. It fit perfectly in his hand like an old-fashioned silver dollar. “Change the world with love,” the wind whispered.

A few paces downstream the man found another stone like the first. “Change the world with forgiveness” the wind whispered as he picked it up. Three more times the man found the sisters and brothers of the plain stone. Each with a word whispered on the wind.

The man sat again beside the stream. “Is that it?” He questioned trying to imagine how these five smooth stones could change the world. Could these stones and the words attached to them really defeat the troubles, struggles, injustice, violence, and darkness of his world?

With a shrug betraying his thought of “I guess we’ll see” the man left the tree-lined stream with his collection of five smooth stones.

Once home, and with great care, the man painted the stones. Emblazoning each with one of the five words. But he was puzzled by what to do next. A puzzle solved when he took out the trash for the weekly pickup.

Strewn across his lawn was everything from his neighbor’s trash can. Used paper towels, spent soda cans, various plastic wrappers, even a couple of dirty diapers speckled his yard. His first thought was to march over to the neighbor and demand that he fix it. “It’s his trash, not mine,” he thought as he thrust his hands in his pockets. But when his fingers felt the stones he stopped.

Pulling out one of the stones he read “change the world with forgiveness.” Slowly, one piece at a time, he began collecting the used paper towels, dirty diapers, and the other trash. About half-way through his efforts, the neighbor, leaving for the market, saw the mess. “Hey man, I’m sorry,” the neighbor said as he helped with the cleanup effort.

“It can happen to any of us,” the man replied. “Umm, here I have something for you,” the man said as he passed the forgiveness stone to the neighbor.

“What do I do with this?” the neighbor asked.

“I know it sounds silly, but when you get a chance give it to someone else who needs forgiveness,” the man replied. The neighbor didn’t say anything but simply pocketed the stone and walked away.

The next day the man had another opportunity. A co-worker misunderstood an email the man had sent, twisting the meaning in ways never intended. After a flurry of messages, the man offered to meet to the co-worker over lunch to “hash things out.”  

Their conversation was tense at first but the man was determined to follow one of the stones. So, he listened, expressed his own feelings, and listened some more. While there were still difficulties to overcome the man felt that he did understand his co-worker and how his message unintentionally back-fired.

As they were leaving the table the man reached in his pocket. “Hey, can I give you something?” the man asked his co-worker.

“Sure, I guess,” the co-worker replied.

The man handed the co-worker the stone painted with “change the world with understanding” and said, “just pass it on when you get a chance.”

That evening he gave away the stone marked “change the world with kindness” after helping an over-wrought mother of three load groceries into her car. A few days later he gave away “change the world with hope” as he visited a neighbor recovering from knee surgery.

The man knew that the hardest stone was left. “It’s easy to say love, but how do you do love?” the man pondered.  He recognized that all of the previous four stones had aspects of love so this last stone had to be a special kind of love. “In its own time,” the man concluded.

Several weeks later the man was standing in the checkout line at the local Super-Mart. In front of him was an obviously poor family with two loaded shopping carts. Behind him was an impatient young man with a scraggly beard and some auto parts. “Bet they’re on food stamps,” the young man said loud enough to be heard over the checkout noise.

The man turned, “So?”

“They should get out of our way, go back to jungle or wherever they came from,” he said even louder.

“That’s not necessary, they belong here as much as you do,” the man said.

The young man responded with a torrent of darkness which the man tried to push back. “Enough!” the man shouted.

“You got that right,” the young man said throwing a bottle jack at the man’s head before running out of the store.

The heavy bottle jack glanced off the side the man’s head knocking him out. A stone painted “Change the world with love” leaped from his pocket and slid across the floor to the feet of the poor family’s father.

It took several days of worry and prayer before the man opened his eyes again. “Am I alive?” he rasped.

“You sure are Mr. Brown. You’re in the hospital with a head injury,” a nurse replied.

“I guess Goliath got the best of me,” he whispered.

“I wouldn’t say that. Can you see over to the counter?” the nurse asked.

“Sure, why all the buckets?” he asked. “Got a leaky roof?”

The nurse walked over and picked a painted stone from one of the buckets. “These started coming in soon after you got here. The news interviewed the father of the family you stood up for. He showed them the stone that fell from your pocket. Others were interviewed with similar stories and these began to show up. Hundreds of them. All painted with “change the world with love, kindness, forgiveness, hope, or understanding.”

The man gently laid his head back down as tears of joy streaked his cheeks.

Dale Heinold
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