Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis originally was published March 18, 2006. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.
A friend who grew up in India and I were sharing some of our woes this week. We got into a real pity party, which reminded her of an old story that advises against carrying our old baggage with us everywhere we go.
A nomad was traveling across the desert with a tired, worn-out old camel. The man met a well-dressed fellow camped alongside the road. The camper invited the man to sit down for a meal and provided a bucket of water for the camel.
As the men talked, the nomad shared the story of his life — bad marriage, money troubles, family problems and unruly children. The man listened kindly. When it came his time to speak, however, he talked of the beauty of a desert sunset, the bounty of the grace of God, the goodness of kind friends and the blessings of everyday life.
Refreshed, the traveler went on his way. Days later, he and his tired old camel met another man camped beside the road. He, too, watered the camel and offered the nomad a meal and conversation.
The nomad repeated his long litany of troubles as the kind listener sat in silence. When the traveler finished his stories of woe and trouble, the host began to talk of good things. The warmth of his wife’s smile, the bubbly feeling he got from hearing his baby’s laugh, the wonder he experienced when he had watched a tiny bird break out of its shell.
The traveler went on his way and camped out at an oasis for the night. At midnight, he was awakened by an angel, whose face was strangely familiar. Suddenly, the nomad realized the angel had the same face as those of the two campers he had met along the way.
“Have you come to bless me with some good gift?” the traveler asked his heavenly messenger.
“Well, yes, although you might not recognize it as a gift,” said the angel. “I have come to give you some advice.
“Twice before I have listened to you, and I have talked with you. Both times, you spoke only of tired, wearisome things. Like your tired, weary camel, the stories of all the bad things in your life weighed my heart down as I listened.
“My advice to you is this. Take your tired old camel to a place where he can graze and be watered regularly for the rest of his days. Set him free and let him retire in peace.
“Then, do the same with your old, tired stories. Release them, and let them go forever. Learn to speak of the happy times of your life. There are new stories every day. Stories that refresh and uplift. Stories that build the faith of others. These are the stories you need to share.”
The angel vanished. The nomad slowly absorbed the divine message. He looked at his tired, old camel and said, “My faithful friend, this will be our last journey together. You will no longer bear burdens on your back. You will no longer have to trek across the desert in the hot sun. I will find a restful place for you where you will have food and water and an easy life for the rest of your days.”
Then, the nomad began to gather some stones and pile them up near the water’s edge. “These are my old camels — my old stories. I will leave them behind forever,” he told his beast of burden.
My friend and I took the fable to heart. We made a pact. When we’re together, we will talk of blessings, not burdens, the good in our lives, not the bad, and we will look for ways to refresh one another’s souls in our desert times.
Do you have some old camels you need to send out to pasture? Trust me, your closest friends will be glad to see those tired, old stories saunter off into the sunset.