A Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck.. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.
At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full..
For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water..
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
‘I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.’
The old woman smiled, ‘Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?’ ‘That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.’
For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
[Author unknown, but greatly appreciated! If you or anyone you know has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as appropriate.]
I used to have an old, decrepit picket fence along the property line behind my garage. It was in disrepair. As I went about working to remove it, I couldn’t bring myself to just throw all the pickets in the trash.
I used some of the pickets to hide my garbage can and recycling container staged on the side of the house.
Last year, I used most of the rest of the pickets to create an old, arbor-like, shabby-chic backdrop for my pond (see picture, right). Looks like its been there a hundred years, but it’s perfect, for now, to support the cardinal vine that will hug it, twist and turn through it; and when in bloom, beckon the hummingbirds…
My wife and I have had a wicker table almost since we’ve been married (our 34 year anniversary was yesterday) and it also has deteriorated (the wicker table; not the marriage!) to the point that it no longer can be depended on to safely serve as a table. Last weekend, I cut the legs off, and placed the wicker top in a spot in the garden, with pea gravel under and around (see picture below). I’ve still work to do to secure it, but it already has piqued some visual interest to the previously nondescript corner…
And now I’m pondering using the wicker table legs to intersperse among the pond edge bamboo stakes!
I have, as you might have surmised, a bit of a compulsion to reuse things. To repurpose. To extend the utility of the unique character of things that long have seen a better day.
The Chinese woman took a pot that didn’t quite work well for it’s intended purpose, and she made it work well for another — shall we say higher? — purpose. It could not quench her thirst as much as it had before, but perhaps we can say that it is satisfying her thirst for something different.
But there is a cost. Her labor is returning 25% less water for her and her family using that cracked pot.
And soon I will need to redo the picket screening around my garbage cans.
And the shabby chic picket back drop surely won’t last as long as a structure made from new wood would…
Utility, and return on investment — as beauty — is in the eye of the beholder.
The author of the story above gave the cracked pot the ability to voice its discouragement and shame over its lost capability. I am realizing now that that storytelling technique gave the author the opportunity to have the Chinese woman talk to the cracked pot, pointing out the critical contribution the pot was playing in beautifying her path, and her home.
I imagine that cracked pot felt pretty good after hearing that…
I will be listening to my pickets; and I will be listening to my wicker table pieces-parts; and I will tell them how much I appreciate their new contribution; I will tell them how they are satisfying my thirst for something, well, different.
And I will leave it to you (at least for now) to make the more explicit connections of this story, and my story, to our real worlds — for they are many, and varied, and meaningful.
For we will all be — if we’re not already — cracked pots.
John… I love your backyard. I could spend an entire afternoon just hanging out back there. Nice job “repurposing” things. Not bad for an iNtuitive soul.
John M. Greco said:
For a future weekend we will just have to have you come over and hang out!
Will there be bratwurst on the grill? If so, then I’d be happy to carry a cracked pot all around your backyard to water you beautiful foliage.
John M. Greco said:
Ahhh … we only have brats once per year, and that was last weekend! LOL! We’ll make an exception for you …
“My wife and I have had a wicker table almost since we’ve been married (our 34 year anniversary was yesterday) and it also has deteriorated (the wicker table; not the marriage!)”
Quite the revelation if you’d said either just like our marriage or just like my wife. I laughed anyway.
Erik: We prefer guests do the heavy lifting while they’re here, i.e. digging weeds, moving shrubs, etc. Make sure you wear your old clothes.
Jamie . . . you know me better than that. 🙂 I will bring John Z. for heavylifting purposes. Our garden is looking really good and it is no thanks to me. 🙂
While the rest of you chat on as old friends, let this stranger peek over the fence and say “hello”. 🙂 I was browsing for this story that I heard somewhere, just this morning. It’s a dusty tale by now, but carried new life to sustain my cracked body and broken heart throughout the day. Now, you have added all the more with your thoughts and well-chosen illustrations.
Living joyfully amid chronic health conditions, with a family depending on me, is a constant undertaking. Just when I feel discouraged and overwhelmed by my limitations, the Great Molder of pots and Maker of flowers reminds me that I am His own. To be “enough” at 25% is unfathomable to me. But I’m listening to His appreciation with the “new contribution” that’s happening as the result of walking with Him day after dusty day.
Thank you, “Neighbor John” for writing for your friends and the strangers walking down the Google trail and popping up over your fence. 🙂
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