Written by Thomas E. McKay:
A philosopher was accustomed to going out into the hills and woods to study the laws of nature. After spending a day in such study, he would return to his village at night, where he would gather his people around him and instruct them in the lessons which he had learned.
One day one of his friends came to him saying, “Will you please bring me a hawthorn twig when you come back, that I can study the lesson you gave last week from that tree?”
“Yes,” the philosopher said, “I will bring you the twig tonight.”
The second one of his friends that morning said, “Will you bring me a rose, that I may study concerning the lecture you gave last evening?”
“Yes, I’ll bring you the rose.”
And just before the philosopher went through the gate of the town that morning, a third friend said, “Will you bring me a lily that I might study the lesson of purity you gave last evening?”
The philosopher promised to bring the lily.
In the evening about sundown when the old philosopher returned to the village, the three friends were waiting at the gate to welcome him.
To the first he gave the hawthorn twig; to the second he gave the rose; and to the third he gave the lily.
Suddenly the man with the hawthorn twig cried, “Here is a dead leaf on the stem of my hawthorn twig!”
The second said, “Here is a thorn on the stem of my rose!”
And the third one cried, “Here is dirt on the roots of my lily!”
“Let me see,” said the philosopher.
From the first he took the hawthorn twig; from the second he took the rose; and from the third he took the lily.
He plucked the dead leaf from the hawthorn twig and gave it to the first friend. He plucked the thorn from the rose and gave it to the second. He took the dirt from the roots of the lily and put it into the hands of the third.
Holding the hawthorn twig, the rose, and the lily, he said: “Now, each of you has what attracted you first. You looked for the dead leaf, and you found it. You looked for the thorn; it was there. You found the dirt of the lily because I left it on the roots. You may keep what attracted you first. I will keep the hawthorn twig, the lily, and the rose, for the beauty I see in them.”
We find in this world just about what we are looking for. If we look for dirt and sordid things, we can find them; or if we look for mistakes in others we can find them also.
If we look for the good and the beautiful, the good and the beautiful will return to us.
–Excerpt from Albert L. Zobell, Jr.’s compilation, “Storyteller’s Scrapbook”