They had not been good people on earth and now were paying for their sins of greed and pride. Never mind that they were really sorry. It was important that they learn a lesson.
Today, they were lined up in a large room, the ceiling open. Their feet were tied to shackles on the lower walls, their wrists bound together in front of them. Each was far enough from the other to make touching impossible. In the center of the room was a fire that provided a small amount of warmth to their shivering bodies. Over the fire hung a huge cauldron several feet out of reach. Its bubbling contents smelled of a wonderful stew, compounding their torture, for they hadn’t eaten in days.
After a while, a large being entered carrying an armload of wooden spoons with very long handles. “The Powers That Be heard your weeping and have taken pity on you. You may each dip into the cauldron and eat. The food is nourishing and will sustain you.” He distributed one spoon to each person, then turned and left.
Overjoyed, each person lifted his spoon, reaching into the cauldron to take a generous portion of steaming stew. Imagine their dismay when they discovered the long handles kept them from bringing the spoon to their mouths for their wrists had remained shackled.
A loud wailing arose, but finally exhausted from their tears, the prisoners began to think of ways to surmount the problem. “Maybe we could fling the end if the handle into the fire, burning it somewhat to make it shorter,” offered one.
But then he realized that the handle would not reach the cauldron at all, and he began once more to weep.
A second prisoner thought they should upset the cauldron, splashing its contents close enough for each to scoop some from the ground. But the others saw this as dangerous since they might be burned.
Then a prisoner at the far side of the room raised his head and smiled. Lifting his spoon, he cautiously reached toward the cauldron, scooping up a generous portion. But instead of trying to manipulate the spoon to his own mouth, he carefully moved it toward his neighbor’s. The rest of the prisoners gazed in wonder as the neighbor took a hearty swallow and judged it to be good.
Soon all the prisoners were feeding one another and somehow, the cauldron contents never lessened. When all had had their fill, they laid down for a night of restful sleep.
Not long after, the being who had given them their spoons returned and one by one, released them from bondage. “You have learned your lesson,” he declared in a friendly voice. “Now you must go back to earth and show everyone else.”
The prisoners nodded, eager to tell what they had learned. But imagine their surprise to find it was understood by only a few who wanted to listen.
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