The Old Man with a Boulder on his Shoulder

by Sandra Rippetoe ©2020
In honor of understanding and forgiveness

Once upon a time in the Land-of-Nature’s-Rhyme-and-Reason
an old man’s heavy load caused him great wheezin’.

He carried a large chip, you see, on his shoulder.
Well, chip is the wrong word. It was, truly, a boulder.

What happened to him was really quite sad.
It wasn’t his fault things turned out so bad.

The chip started out small, but it grew and grew
with each hateful remark, as if on cue.

At first, he dismissed it. “Why, this small tiny stone?
I am so strong. Look! My muscles have grown!”

But, as time went by that chip increased in size.
The man got a lot stronger, but not very wise.

One day he was walking through Forest-So-Green
when out popped a wizard who said something mean.

The old man pushed back. He was quick to react.
After years of harsh words, tact was something he lacked.

And just at that moment, the boulder got bigger.
“Now I’ve a new grudge . . . to carry,” he figured.

But that little wizard was – deep down – really kind.
He hoped he could change the old man’s heart and mind.

“Now see what just happened?! Make note of your load.
See? It got heavier. You’re on the wrong road.
Those caught in deep struggle. . .  at all people, they’ll strike.
They’re completely alone with no one to like.
This is the best way to handle a bully.
Assume that his day has been quite bad . . . fully.
Way worse than your day and way worse than your life.
Assume that the bully’s known nothing but strife.
Then kind words will show up. The right thing you’ll say.
And if words don’t come, then just walk away.
Please try this old man. Your burden will shrink.”
The wizard then vanished. Poof! Quick as a blink.

“Well, I guess there’s no harm in trying,” he thought.
“I’m pretty old, but I still can be taught.”

He imagined the tiff with his neighbor Lee
over branches that fell in his yard from Lee’s tree.

He played out new words – rehearsed what to say –
and quietly spoke them. It was strange, this new way.

Then guess what happened, right before his eyes?
A rock broke off and rolled. He said with surprise,

“Hmmm. Perhaps that wizard . . . well. . . maybe he’s right.
Maybe compassion IS better than fights.”

The old man kept at it. The boulder kept shrinking.
It’s a small chip now. Gratitude is his thinking.

He walks around town just as light as a feather!
So happy is he – his life’s so much better.