No, this post does not abide by the standard Truth Behind Reality protocol, but ‘occasionally’ truth breaks my rules. There exists a time for everything; now is the time for this.
Not so long ago, before we used tractors and modern gadgets, there lived a farmer who asked for nothing more than an honest wage for an honest day’s labor. A kindly man he was, never shy of lending a helping hand or offering a word of encouragement to his fellow neighbors. He appreciated the talent God gave him for raising a good crop, and sought to teach others to do the same.
The farmer had many animals. Some became food for his table and a few were his personal friends and companions, as he did not have the good fortune of finding a wife for himself. Of all the animals under the farmer’s care, his closest friend and companion was the mule. He loved this mule because of his dedication and refusal to give up working, even when he was tired and hungry from an extra long day. The farmer appreciated him so much that one day after working especially hard at pulling the plow, he said to the mule; “Mule, your name is now Mr. Mule because I respect your devotion to duty, never complaining despite the task I require of you. Mr. Mule, you are my friend.” From that day forward, the kind farmer never forgot his promise of friendship and treated his avowed companion with all the dignity his heart afforded him.
The farmer’s beloved mule however, had a very bad trait. Mr. Mule’s dedication and devotion to duty would sometimes turn into a stubborn streak for no apparent reason. Halfway between one end of the field and the other, he would simply stop and stand. Try as he might, the farmer could not convince the mule to move. Rain would fall, harsh wind would blow, but Mr. Mule would not move until he no longer felt stubborn. This happened many times over the years but each time, the farmer smiled to himself and waited for his beloved mule to resume walking.
One day the farmer finally said, “Mr. Mule, I can tolerate your stubbornness because you are my friend and companion, but this may hurt you some day. I admire your devotion to duty, as you never complain despite the task I require of you. In return for all your efforts, I feed you well and give you a special grooming on Saturday nights. I do this to show my appreciation for all these years of friendship you have given me. Why, Mr. Mule, are you so stubborn?
One particular day, after finishing his breakfast, the farmer lit his lantern and walked to the barn where his beloved mule was already awake and waiting for his master. “Mr. Mule”, the farmer said, “today is an important day. I carefully saved the earnings from all these years you have faithfully devoted yourself to me, never complaining despite the task I required of you. At this day’s end, you and I will never work these fields to exhaustion. Never again will you endure the blazing sun or driving rain. From these years of earnings, I will feed you with the finest grain and groom you with the best brushes and ointments money can buy. Thank you Mr. Mule, you are truly my friend.”
The mule worked very hard that day. The sun was unusually hot with very little wind to cool him, but as always, he faithfully performed his duty to the kind farmer. He pulled that plow all day without stopping – not once did he grow stubborn. His muscles rippled and glistened in the sun as sweat poured out to release the heat, yet onward, forward the mule continued to pull. “Thank you, thank you”, the farmer said throughout the day. “Mr. Mule you are truly my friend.”
With the last furrow turned, the farmer at last directed the mule toward the barn. The farmer stepped down from the plow and with love and admiration in his eyes, said to the mule, “Not only is it Saturday evening but also the end of your years of toil. I want to honor you with all the water you wish to drink and the finest grain you wish to eat. Just there by the barn is a trough holding the purest and coldest water; beside it, the best grain money can buy. You may take as much time as you like.” The tired mule drank and drank of the cool, fresh water and ate and ate of the exquisite grain while the kind farmer smiled, beaming at his friend’s delight.
The farmer was so pleased with the mule’s acceptance of his gift he did not notice the sky filling up with clouds. This was an unusually dry summer, leaving the vegetation with very little moisture. A distant thunderclap caught the farmer’s attention as he turned to see the sky of dark clouds roiling in motion. Distant lightning began to flicker with increasing frequency, breaking the silence with an occasional crash of building thunder. The farmer had experienced this type of storm before. It was the result of a long-overdue rain that carried the potential of destroying everything in its path; it was nature’s way of setting everything right. “Mr. Mule”, said the farmer with commanding tension in his voice, “I want you to hide in the barn so you don’t get struck by lightning. Go Now.” The mule casually looked over his shoulder at the farmer, paused, then returned to his water and grain. “Please, Mr. Mule, you must do as I say. Hide in the barn; this is a very bad storm.” Unfazed, the mule continued his feast. Suddenly, thunder shook the ground as a lightning bolt cracked and lit the nearby weeds ablaze. The farmer wheeled around as the fire began to lunge toward his mule. “Mr. Mule, run! Run away! The fire is coming straight toward you!” Once again, the mule casually looked over his shoulder toward the farmer, paused, then returned to his water and grain. Bang, this time the lightning struck even closer, exploding into a roaring inferno that rushed directly for Mr. Mule, instantly bypassing the farmer and engulfing the previous fire.
“Please Mr. Mule run, Run away! This fire will kill you. When the fire is out I will give you all the best grain, and all the fresh water, all the special grooming you could ever desire. Please run away!” The mule continued on with his banquet without further response. The farmer fell to his knees and sobbed when he heard awful cries as the fire consumed his beloved friend and companion.
After the storm ended, the neighbors helped put out the fire. “Where is your beloved mule”, one asked. “I don’t see him.” With shoulders slumped and tears in his eyes, the sad farmer said, “Mr. Mule’s stubborn nature, the very thing that so devoted him to all these years of duty – never complaining despite the task I required of him – killed the only friend I have. He would not run away to save himself, not because the grain was special or the water, cool. Mr. Mule – my friend, my true friend – died because he decided to eat and drink and did not want to change his mind. It could have been anything: plowing or grazing, sleeping, or looking out of the barn window toward who knows what. He simply enjoyed the stability of his decision more than his need to escape the fire… even though he knew he would die because of it.
…are you the mule? I am.