The Wise Woman, The Young Boy, And The Little Bird

July 23, 2021

We only see what we want to see; we only hear what we want to hear. Our belief system is just like a mirror that only shows us what we believe.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

A few days ago I was watching a show with the kids (The Mysterious Benedict Society) and I heard the fable below. I went to google and it was harder to find than I originally thought. I had never heard it before and I have no clue how old it is either.

Hopefully, it's as impactful as it was for me. I took time to reflect on it and shared it with a few friends I thought would love it. Enjoy!

There was once a wise woman who lived by herself near a small village. Rumor had it that she could always accurately predict when the rains would come, or help heal a sick child with herbs, or calm angry neighbors and help them to resolve their fights and arguments. People came from all over the land to meet with her and seek her advice on matters both small and great. Her reputation was such that was said she was never wrong — not ever.

Some of the children of the village didn't believe that it was possible to always be right. Surely she could not know everything! They decided to test her knowledge. First they asked her to answer questions about the planets, the animals, and the world. No matter how hard the questions, she always answered correctly.

The children were amazed at her knowledge and learning and most were ready to stop testing the wise woman. However, one boy was determined to prove that the old woman couldn't know everything. Hatching a devious scheme, he told all of his friends to meet him at the woman's home the following afternoon so he could prove she was a faker.

All through the next day he hunted for a bird. Finally he caught a small songbird in a net. Holding it behind his back so no one could see what was in his hands, he walked triumphantly to the wise woman's home.

"Old woman!" he called. "Come and show us how wise you are!"

The woman walked calmly to the door. "May I help you?" she simply asked.

"You say you know everything — prove it — what am I holding behind my back?" the young boy demanded.

The old woman thought for a moment. She could make out the faint sounds of a birds wings rustling. "I do not say I know everything — for that would be impossible," she replied. "However, I do believe you are holding a bird in your hands."

The boy was furious. How could the woman have possibly known he had a bird? Thinking quickly he came up with a new scheme. He would ask the woman whether the bird was alive or dead. If the woman replied, "alive," he would crush it with his hands and prove her wrong. If she answered, "dead," on the other hand, he would pull the living bird from behind his back and allow it to fly away. Either way he would prove his point and the wise woman would be discredited.

"Very good," he called. "It is a bird. But tell me, is the bird I am holding alive or dead?"

The wise woman paused for a long moment while the boy waited with anticipation for his opportunity to prove her wrong. Again the woman spoke calmly, "The answer, my young friend, is in your hands. The answer is in your hands."

The boy realized that the wise woman had once again spoken correctly and truthfully. The answer was indeed in his own hands. Feeling the bird feebly moving in his hands as it tried to escape his grasp, he felt suddenly very ashamed.

The answer was in his hands — slowly and gently he brought his hands to the front of his body. Looking into the eyes of the delicate bird he apologized, "I am sorry little one," and he opened his hands to let her go free.

There are two main lessons we can learn here. One is the fact that some of us can't stand to see other people win, the envy and jealousy eats at us. Instead of being happy for people succeeding, we look to discredit their success by saying things like, "that was easy for them because..." or, "they only got there because of...". Be careful with those words because they do a lot of internal damage.

The second one is that we often forget that our actions are our own. Good or bad, they are a reflection of who we are and we can't blame others for our actions. We often approach life with the same erroneous method the young boy approached the wise woman at her door with. We look to our surroundings and we blame people and things for our current situation. We forget that in our world there is only one person responsible for the way we look at life, us!

We should never let an outside force coerce our ego and vanity to act out of spite. Take time to reflect on this story and see what you can learn from it and feel free to share it.

Adapted from an old folk tale