“MAYBE” A Zen Lesson on Gratitude

by Gratitude Girl Carolyn


There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

Two weeks ago I sent out a request to the universe. “I need a new place to live. It should have hardwood floors, be safe, serene and be within a mile of my favorite grocery store. It should be within walking distance of the library and it should be no more than $450 a month.”

That is the order I put in to the universe. Immediately my ego mind began to say, “You won’t find anything at that price that is livable! Apartments are twice that cost in this town!” I silenced my own mind chatter by reminding myself that there were surely circumstances that I could find where someone needed me and all of these requirements would be met.

The next day, while visiting my friend Phyllis, she mentioned to me that she had a friend who bought a new condo, but she had gotten sick, and wanted to find someone to rent the condo so she could recoup her association fees. “How much are the fees?” I asked. “$450 a month. Shall I call her and tell her about you?”

So, calls were made, meetings arranged and I found myself in a 2100 square foot condo in the heart of town, meeting with the owner. “Fantastic” you say? “Maybe”.

So we looked at the condo, and sure enough it needed lots of painting and general cleaning. And Peg (the owner) and I reached an agreement that I would do all the deep cleaning and all the painting in exchange for a rent reduction of $450 a month… “Wonderful” you say? “Maybe”.

I wrote out a simple, temporary lease and, at my intuition’s urging, added a phrase that if the lease did not happen, Peg would pay me at an hourly rate for the work I had done. We signed, and I began. My oh my. Heavy, dirty and hot work. Cleaning, painting and getting it ready to move into in ten days.

On the night before the move in, Peg and a friend came by and checked out all of my work. “This is amazing.” the friend said over and over… So Peg and the friend went home. All set. Ready to sign the lease the very next morning.

When the next morning arrived I left early and took my frozen food over to the condo before my meeting with Peg. And when I stepped off the elevator, there she was, all embarrassed looking, no eye contact and there was a locksmith changing the locks! “Bad News.” you exclaim? “Maybe.”

I left and waited at the coffee shop, and while I waited, I admitted to myself that Peg was probably changing the locks to enable her to NOT sign the lease. So, I sent myself a text message. “Love, Peace, Joy, Brotherhood, BE KIND. ”

“How sad” you say. “How mean” you add. “Maybe.”

I was glad I had a few minutes alone at the coffee shop. I was glad I had time to send myself a text message to remind me to be kind. For, as sure as I know my name, what was happening was about her, and would work out for the best for me… As I waited, I reminded myself over and over of my own motto “Breathe. Give thanks. Repeat.”

So we parted ways. It did take me an hour and a half to gather all my supplies and get the condo cleaned out. And it took her two checks to pay for the painting supplies and my time.

And yes, I did cry from sheer exhaustion. But I did not cry in anger, nor did I try and make her feel bad or wrong. And I did not feel any need to take into me any message about me.. I was just grateful that we could part ways relatively painlessly. My lesson? Be grateful. Always. For everything. You never know when the thing that you believe is happening for the best will wear you out and turn you upside down. And truly, when you label events as “good” or “bad” my answer is “Maybe.”

The sure thing I believe? Gratefulness is the way, in all circumstances, with all people, all the time.


3 thoughts on ““MAYBE” A Zen Lesson on Gratitude

  1. I’ve heard this parable before, but thank you for sharing it and your own story. Coincidence that I stumbled upon it again tonight? Maybe.
    Om Shanti
    Grace and peace to you.

  2. what a heart warming story. i like the ending where you are not angry and upset with her. good for you. you already have grace and peace follows it. xo nita

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