A wise parent sent his children to a distant country to learn the lessons of life which experience alone can teach. Before their departure he called them to him, and, after providing them liberally with means, told them that at their return he would listen to their several experiences; at the same time telling them to use the means which he had given them well–neither to hoard, nor spend them unwisely; above all, not to bring them back in their original form, but a full equivalent therefore, either in spiritual or material things.
A year had scarcely passed, when, as the father sat looking at the western sky, the youngest son came running breathlessly up the path.
“So soon returned?” asked his father–which caused a look of disappointment to pass over the face of the youth; and his words were shaded with regret as he replied, “I thought you would be glad to see me, and would rejoice that I got through so quickly.”
“Not so, my son,” replied the father. “You cannot, in the brief time you have been absent, have performed many, if any, deeds of goodness compared with what you might have done by tarrying longer; and your gold–you surely cannot have used it all in so brief a period.”
“Why, I’ve brought all the money back you gave me, father. You see, I got through without its costing me a penny.”
“It grieves me more than all, my son, that you should go through any country and return no equivalent for deeds and kindness given. Rest awhile, and in a few days return to the land and the people I sent you among, and come not back again to me till every farthing is wisely spent.”
The youth murmured within himself, but dared not reply. A few days later he departed, to go over the same ground and do the work he had neglected for the sake of a speedy return.
At the end of the second year another returned, looking sad and dispirited.
“Thou hast soon returned, my son,” said the father. “Is thy work done in so brief a period?”
The youth hung his head, and answered slowly, “I was so weary, father. I saw so much sorrow among those people, I longed to come home where all is rest and peace. Surely, I was right in that, was I not?”
“Far from it, my child. If there was much sorrow there, that was the very reason why you should have remained. Dost thou not remember those lines I have so often quoted,–
“‘Rest is not quitting the busy career: Rest is the fitting of self to one’s sphere’?”
“I remember them well, father,” the youth replied; “but I never felt their meaning until now.”
“And if you sense it now, my son, what is your duty?”
“To return, I suppose.”
“But how–cheerfully or otherwise?”
“Gladly and willingly,” said the son, born from the old to the higher self.
“I will provide you with more means,” remarked his father, while a feeling of joy thrilled his being at the thought that his son was going to give his life to human needs.
They parted on the morrow, though that separation was the nearest approach of their lives; for they were united by a truth which is ever the essence of a divine union. Many years passed by. The hair of the father grew whiter, and his ears longed to hear the voices of his sons, yet he would not call, in word or feeling, so long as the busy throng was receiving or giving them life.
One evening, when his thoughts were taking a somewhat pensive turn, a messenger came to his door with a letter from the long-absent and eldest, who had not returned to his home since the day of his departure. Its words were these:–
“Dear Father,–I cannot come to the home I love so well, nor to your side, while this land is so full of need of human words and deeds. With your blessing I shall remain here my lifetime; and when age comes on, and I can no longer serve the people, may I return?”
The tears fell over the good man’s face. God had blessed him greatly in bestowing on him so worthy a son; and he penned warm and glowing words of encouragement to his child, and sent by the messenger, with gold to alleviate the wants of the needy.
“Tell him a thousand blessings await him when his work is done,” said he to the messenger as the latter mounted his horse to ride away.
Long after, when the father grew old and helpless, the sons returned laden with rich experiences and abundantly able to care for him.
They had learned the great and valuable lesson that all must learn ere they truly live,–that we must give to receive, sow if we would reap, and lose our life to find it.