FOR A HUMAN CHARACTER to reveal truly exceptional qualities, one must have the good fortune to be able to observe its performance over many years. If this performance is devoid of all egoism, if its guiding motive is unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain that there is no thought of recompense and that, in addition, it has left its visible mark upon the earth, then there can be no mistake.
Thus begins one of the most inspiring stories that I treasure. It is by Jean Giono and the story is called The Man who Planted Trees. It is a short story and there is a story about the story itself which I will go into another day. I have yet to meet someone who did not find it inspirational. The story concludes thus:
I am convinced that, in spite of everything, humanity is admirable. But when I compute the unfailing greatness of spirit and the tenacity of benevolence that it must have taken to achieve this result, I am taken with an immense respect for that old and unlearned peasant who was able to complete a work worthy of God.
Stories teach us a lot provided we take the trouble to think about what they mean. I like stories that teach a deep lesson — a lesson that has wide applicability. One such story I came across in Douglas Adam’s book Last Chance to See and the story is called Sifting Through the Embers.
From areas such environmental degradation to economic development to personal striving — that story has something important to say. I will not give the punch line away right now. For now, I hope you enjoy the two stories.