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The Temple & The Man from the West

Long ago in the far East, there was a small village nestled on a remote island. They had little contact with the outside world, and they were happy living simple lives. Families supported each other, they sustained themselves through farming and hunting, and they had a deep sense of spiritual connection.

Over a hundred years ago, one of the members of the village drew up plans to build a temple. This was not an ordinary temple, as it was so intricately designed that it would take decades to complete. 

But the villagers, devoted to their spiritual beliefs, didn’t care. They felt that the simple act of building this temple would serve the community in ways beyond just having a building in which they could meditate. So, once the plans were laid, the villagers began to build.

It began with setting a strong foundation. The plans called for deep trenches to hold sturdy pillars of stone so as to avoid any risk of the temple collapsing. This took a decade on its own to build—but the villagers didn’t mind the work. 

Then came the walls, ornately carved and sturdily built so as to withstand the whipping winds of a monsoon. Another decade passed, but the villagers paid no mind to the time.

The roof was next, and the villagers started scouring the jungle for alang-alang, a type of grass used to create thatched roofs in that part of the world. Although alang-alang grows in abundance around the village, the temple was large, and they had to be careful not to disturb the fragile ecosystem that supported the village. So they had to wait, often for years, for the grass to provide enough material to be woven into long strips that are set on a wooden frame.

The villagers worked a little bit every day to build this temple. It started as a community effort and, over the years, transformed into a beautiful tradition that brought the community together.

Then, one day, as the walls and roof were still under construction, a successful entrepreneur from the West visited the village. He was so inspired by the villagers’ work that he decided to offer his support in building the temple. Gracious for the support, the villagers agreed to include this outsider in their efforts.

He hired architects, masons, and artists to review the plans for the temple. He told the villagers that if they gave him a week, he would help them complete the temple. Astonished by his offer, they agreed, even accepting his generous gift of a week’s trip to a neighboring village where they can trade, meet new people, and take some time off.

So the villagers left, setting off for a day’s hike to the neighboring village with gratitude for their good fortune.

But, upon arriving in the neighboring village, they were surprised to find that it was empty. They were used to a busy village center, with people walking around and lively conversations unfolding. They saw nothing, and heard only silence. 

A woman in the group peered over toward a nearby home, and, curious to know what was going on, decided to knock on the door.

After a few dull knocks on the weathered wooden door, a man answered by opening the door. He gently welcomes the woman and her villagers, asking why they had come.

“We’ve come to meet you and learn more about your ways and to trade our valuable goods for your own, if you are interested,” the woman says.

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” the man says, “but you won’t find much here. A man from the West came through here a few months ago and offered to build our temple, one that we have been working on for quite some time. But when he finished, the village ground to a halt, and many people left.”

Astonished, the woman probed him with another question: “Why did people leave? Wouldn’t the completion of your temple be a good thing?”

“We thought it would,” the man responded, “but after the temple was done, the grasslands surrounding our village were stripped bare, so the flora and fauna scattered, leaving us without food or medicine. Then the monsoons began. The walls were made from weak trees, so they bent and splintered from the heavy winds. The foundation was too shallow and collapsed as the ground turned to mud. Many of us had no choice but to leave, and those who remained have been stripped of our communal faith and means of living.”

Understandably shocked, and knowing that the same man was now in her own village, the woman rushed back and told her friends what she had heard.

They dispatched three of their fastest runners back to their village to notify the man from the West that his work was no longer welcome, and that he should go on his way. As they left, the rest of the village followed at a slower pace.

When the villagers returned to their homes another day later, they saw what the man from the West had done—and what he had not done. 

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what they saw.

Until then, consider this question: 

Where in your life are you trying to build something of deep meaning, and in what ways, if any, are you delegating that effort to other people, or searching for quick solutions to have it built sooner?

Walking alongside you,

Melanie & Dan (the plot thickens!)