The Grain-Growers (A Parable)

Sergei Golovin Simferopol,Ukraine

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a cruel king. In the ruler's mind, cruelty was synonymous with discipline and was therefore viewed as a virtue that was to be highly esteemed, so he ordered all of his people to be as cruel as possible. The king also believed that eating nothing but meat would somehow encourage the spread of cruelty throughout his kingdom. Bread, he thought, softened one's character and was consequently outlawed altogether. The king's criers even shouted constantly about the harmful effects of bread, while touting meat's benefits, in all of the city squares.

The people themselves, who were mainly mountain dwellers, remained faithful to the king. Although life without bread was hard at times, most folks still believed what they heard, and they always upheld the law. Some, however, clearly understood the importance of bread. They tilled small plots of land, fertilized and watered the soil, harvested the crops, and then shared bread with those in need. These brave farmers risked their lives daily for the sake of others.

At the foot of the mountains were plush green valleys. Skilled grain growers lived in them. Their land was very fertile and brought forth abundant harvests each year. The inhabitants of the valleys were accustomed to eating bread, so seeing bread on one's table was no surprise to a guest. They loved baking blueberry or cinnamon muffins, croissants filled with jam, and chocolate chip cookies, and they were well aware of mountain-dwellers' problems. They even wanted to help them. Sadly, they could not because all roads leading up the mountains were closed.

Years passed, and the old king eventually died, allowing the old restrictions to be lifted. The grain growers from the valleys went up to help their neighbours joyfully. They asked the mountainous people: "How can we help you now?" "We need lots of grain to grow rich fields all over the mountains," they replied. The skilled grain-growers immediately provided tons of grain, and the work got underway. Amazed by such an impressive beginning, the local farmers left their small lots and joined the great transformation.

When the fields had all but covered the mountains, the skilled grain growers asked the local farmers if there was anything else they could do to help them. The farmers indicated that granaries were needed for storing future crops. Right away, the helpers from the valley began constructing big barns for their neighbours, but the mountain dwellers were concerned about something. "We've never had large harvests before!" That led the valley workers to open agricultural schools, where they taught harvesting methods. Again, the skilled valley workers asked how they could further assist their neighbours. "Well," came back the reply, "we'll need bakeries to make muffins and croissants, just like in the valleys."

The people of the valleys worked hard, sharing their skills with their neighbors. All of this new activity was so exciting to the farmers of the mountains, that they began neglecting their own small plots of land. The farmers stopped working on them, ridding them of the rocks in the soil, and watering them. Everybody was so focused on the coming harvest. Soon, the mountains were brimming over with new crops, and the visitors, beaming with a sense of accomplishment, began departing for other lands where their assistance was required.

But the happiness in the mountains did not last long. The grain growers from the valleys knew nothing about the mountainous agriculture. As a result, almost all of the seeds that were sown "fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil," and then "because of not having any root were dried up." The people of the mountains soon grew tired of cookies. Hence, they resorted to exhausting themselves, maintaining that meat was indeed the only healthy food available. Though the farmers were neither persecuted nor punished in any way, they were still ignored by most, and grain growing was, again, merely seen as a futile and foreign exercise.