Sitting alone and his dorm room, Kenny Wayne was trying to figure it all out. He was a young college student and he wasn’t at all sure what he wanted to do with his life or how he might become successful in the future. He had a part time job in a local pub serving beer and cheeseburgers. But he knew he wanted much more than that. He reasoned to himself that if he always knew the right time to begin a new project and if he knew the right people to listen to and if he always knew the most important thing to do, he might have some reasonable chance of success.
So, he set about to find the answers to those three questions. He began by talking to his friends and people he worked with and some of his customers. He then talked to school guidance counselors and some of his teachers that he trusted and respected. He talked to family members. He asked them all the same three questions.
One business associate told him that to know the right time for every action one must draw up a detailed plan for everything that needed to be done and schedule it on a calendar. Then execute the plan. In other words, plan your work and work your plan he said.
A guidance counselor told him it was impossible to know beforehand the right time for every action. But if you were always mindful of what needed to be done you will know automatically what to do next.
Still others said it was impossible for one man to decide the right time for every action. He should therefore surround himself with the best possible advisors to help him decide.
But others said some things could not wait to be decided by a committee. They needed to be decided at once. But to make the best possible decision it would be necessary to know what was going to happen in the future. What he needed was a fortuneteller or a crystal ball.
There were similar concerns about the second question. Who were the right people to surround himself with and to listen to? Some said he most needed his friends, others said he needed counselors and psychologists and still others said family members.
The third question: What was the most important occupation? Some of his friends said that the most important occupation was science. His sister told him to go into plastics. Others said business, some said arts and still others said spiritual development was the way to go.
After listening to all this advice, Kenny still couldn’t make up his mind. He decided to consult an individual that he had heard about who lived on the outskirts of town. He lived all alone and had the reputation of being a wise man.
The old hermit lived in a forest. Kenny Wayne drove his battered old pickup truck out to see him. It took him about a half an hour driving along the interstate highway to get there. He went alone wearing simple clothes. He parked his truck at the base of a hill and hiked the rest of the way up a steep and narrow trail. The hermit lived deep in the woods.
When Kenny Wayne reached the cabin where the hermit lived, he saw him outside in a field just to the rear the cabin digging in the dirt. Kenny approached the hermit who noticed him but kept on digging. The hermit was skinny and smallish, and each time he stuck his shovel into the dirt and turned it over he grunted.
Kenny walked up to him and said: “Howdy! Mighty hot day today, ain’t it?” The hermit kept on digging. “I came out here to ask you for some advice. I’ve heard you are a wise man and I was hoping you could answer some questions for me.”
The hermit looked up and leaned against his shovel. He had a blank look on his face.
“How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need in my life and who should I listen to? What are the most important things that I need to do in life?”
The hermit listened but did not answer. He spat tobacco juice on the ground and kept on digging.
“You look like you could use a hand. Here, let me take that shovel from you and do a little work.”
“Thanks!” said the hermit. He handed the shovel to Kenny and sat down on the ground.
When he had dug two rows, Kenny stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the shovel.
But Kenny did not give him the shovel, he continued to dig. An hour passed, then another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and it grew darker. Kenny at last stuck the shovel into the earth.
“I came looking for some answers. If you cannot or will not answer me just tell me and I will be on my way.
Just then then they heard a gunshot.
Kenny Wayne turned around and saw a large bearded man come running out of the woods. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the patch of ground where Kenny was standing, he fell to the ground, moaning and writhing in pain. Kenny and the hermit undid the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. Kenny washed it as best he could with a jug of water from the cabin, and used a towel as a compress to stanch the bleeding. But the blood would not stop flowing, and Kenny had to remove the towel that was soaked with blood and apply another one. Finally, the blood stopped flowing.
“Hold on there, partner, stay with me!” Kenny cradled the man in his arms.
Meanwhile the sun went down and it had become completely dark. Kenny and the hermit carried the wounded man into the cabin and laid him on the bed.
Kenny looked at the hermit. “If he doesn’t get medical attention soon, he will die. Do you get cell phone service up here?”
“Young man, I don’t have a cell phone. As you can see, I don’t even have electricity.”
He then struck a match and lit a candle.
“Well, I’m going to try anyway.”
Kenny took out his cell phone and dialed 911. To his pleasant surprise the phone worked.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
Kenny Wayne gave the particulars and described where they were located. They were going to have to life flight the wounded man out on a helicopter. The helicopter couldn’t land so the EMT’s had to fasten the man to a basket and the helicopter crew pulled him up on a cable.
While they were waiting for the EMTs to arrive Kenny asked the man what had happened.
“We were stalking you,” he said. “We were going to rob and kill you when you came back down the trail but you were up here all day so we came up the hill to attack you up here. On my way up I tripped and fell and my gun went off and I shot myself in the abdomen. You saved my life. Can you ever forgive me?”
Soon they heard the sound of the helicopter over head as the rotor blades whirred about and the helicopter stayed in a fixed position over the cabin. Just then the EMTs arrived. Kenny got out of their way so they could do their work. By the time they got the man stabilized and secured on onto the basket Kenny was so exhausted, he sat down on the floor with his back against the wall and promptly fell asleep. He slept through the night.
When he awoke in the morning, he was a bit disoriented and it took him a while to realize where he was. He went outside to look for the hermit. Before leaving he wanted another crack at the hermit to see if he could answer his questions. The hermit was in his garden planting seeds in the earth that had been dug the day before.
“One last time, will you answer my questions, old man?”
“You already have your answers,” said the hermit.
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you see? If you had not had compassion for me yesterday by digging those rows for me, that man would have attacked you on your way down the trail and possibly killed you. So, the most important time was when you were digging the rows. I was the most important person to be with, and to help me was the most thing for you to do. Later, when that man ran up to us, the most important time was when you were helping him. If you had not bandaged his wound and stopped the bleeding he would surely have died. So, in that case he was the most important person to be with, and what you did for him was the most important thing to do. So, the answers to your questions are simple: the most important time is now. The most important person is the person who you are with. And the most important thing to do is to be good to that person. That is your main purpose in life and the secret to success.”
4 thoughts on “The Old Hermit”
I like your parable, Benn.
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I love this piece. Indeed the most important time is now.
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