One day three years ago, I was giving a seminar for Medicare eligible seniors at the Hilton Hotel in Houston. Although the event was well advertised in the Houston Chronicle like most of these events, it was sparsely attended, so much so, that only one person showed up.
I thanked him for coming and decided to discard my usual PowerPoint presentation and have an informal discussion with him over coffee.
He was a young looking sixty-five year old from some obscure rural region in India and had been an American citizen for about fifteen years. Like so many of his countrymen, he had come here for fame and fortune.
He loved America; however, he did not obtain the fame or the fortune. But overall, he was very happy to live here in the States.
We discussed the product that I was offering. Early on, he let me know that it did not meet his needs. We had plenty of coffee so we continued to drink and talk. Soon we found ourselves talking about religion.
He informed me that like his obscure home village, he belonged to an equally obscure sect of Hinduism that I had never heard of either. Which doesn’t say much because (I hate to admit it) I, like most Americans, know very little about their culture or religion that dates back thousands of years before Christ.
Eventually, we started to discuss the pros and cons of rich man versus poor man and whether a rich man could achieve a state of grace and enter into paradise upon his death. He proposed that this was highly likely.
He indicated that being rich was a blessing. Poor people suffered from some past life incarnation and were now being punished by being made poor. I could not have agreed less; but out of politeness and respect for my new friend, I refrained from voicing my opinion.
I am ashamed to admit that he knew more about the Christian religion than I knew about his. To support his point, he argued by asking if Jesus did not say, “The poor will be with you always.” I explained that (even though I was baptized into the faith at the age of twenty-five) I do not consider myself to be a Christian.
I think of myself as a Spiritualist. I told him I was positive that Jesus never made such a statement and that his words had been co-opted and manipulated over the centuries to substantiate the position of the power elites in order to maintain control over the masses.
The discussion had become quite lively when he countered that there are billions of poor and what did I propose be done to alleviate their suffering?
He then leaned back in his chair with a smile of satisfaction, as if to say, now top that if you can! I sat there, staring at him for about ten seconds, pondering my response when my inner Soul took over and I said the following to him.
Imagine for a moment that you have one hundred men each holding a wicker basket. The baskets are all the same size, about two feet long, a foot wide, and six inches deep. These baskets are not your normal baskets. Inside each basket, are all of the worldly possessions of each individual.
One poor man’s basket contains a crust of moldy bread. Some baskets are completely empty. One basket has one million dollars. Another has a small house, an old car and a few dollars in the bank. Some baskets have nice cars, a suburban home, vacations abroad, and money to send their children to the finest universities.
And there, among the one hundred, is the super rich man; his basket overflows with abundance. His basket is so full that it takes all of his strength to keep from dropping it.
He happily ignores those around him, refusing the help of some poor empty basket soul who offers to assist him with his heavy burden. The offer of help does not come with any strings; there is no expectation of receiving any of the contents of his basket, just a sincere desire to help.
A voice loudly orders the one hundred to form a circle with each man facing the back of the man in front of him. After being properly seated, legs crossed, sitting on the floor with their baskets resting comfortably in the valley of their crossed legs, the voice speaks again. “You are probably wondering why you are here. No, you are not dead.
You have been given a rare opportunity to learn a lesson. You are about to participate in the Circle of Sharing.” As you are reading this, you are suddenly transposed; and now, you, the reader, are in the circle holding onto your basket with all of your worldly goods.
You, my reader, are one of the one hundred. You say, “Wait a minute! I don’t want to be a party to this story!” To which, the voice says, “Too late. This exercise has always been about you.” You look into your basket and, sure enough, everything that you own lies within.
Now you, my reader friend, have a problem. You are a church attending Christian. You consider yourself to be a good man (or you might be a woman) but you just cannot bring yourself to play this game.
After all, you worked hard for these treasures. It is not your fault that the poor man has nothing. If he had worked hard like you did, he too would have a good amount in his basket. But an unseen hand forces you to pass your basket forward.
The first basket that you received in the exchange contains the crust of moldy bread. You take it out and pass the basket forward. The next basket contains an old house; you remove it but leave the car and dog within it. And so it goes, round and round, and soon something strange starts to happen.
The baskets begin to fill up with the identical contents for everyone. The poor man that started with an empty basket now has food, clothing, and a roof over his head; and glowing like a new sunrise in his basket, he has hope for a brighter future for him and his family.
Now, you don’t begrudge him for his new wealth. After all, he had nothing to start with. You consider yourself to be a compassionate Christian; but you look down into the basket that you have just received and see an old house, a car for you and your wife, adequate clothes but no Saks Fifth Avenue or Armani suits and dresses.
There is money for your children’s education and just enough for a retirement without fear. At this point, you don’t really know what to think. You don’t think that you like this game.
You hear a loud sound of struggling about twenty men behind you. You glance over your shoulder and see the rich man with his formerly full basket, screaming that he was through with this nonsense.
He had just got his original basket back and was astonished to see how much had been taken out. He screamed again in righteous indignation that he was through with the game and that he was leaving with what remained of his vast wealthy basket, which still contained more than he could spend in ten thousand lifetimes. You just stare unable to make any sense of him or this game.
The unseen voice directs the other ninety-nine to take the rich man’s basket from him and escort him to the sidelines to watch.
Screaming, kicking and cursing at the top of his lungs, he is taken outside of the circle and seated in a straight-backed chair up against the wall. He can only watch as his basket is passed around and around the Circle of Sharing.
The baskets continue going around and around. The formerly poor are laughing and talking to everyone in earshot. They are praising God, Allah, and Shiva for their good fortune.
The man behind you pats you on the back with every passing of the basket. Tears are flowing down his cheeks. Another man cries with joy for now being able to afford a life saving operation for his daughter.
A Midwestern farmer, who was about to lose his farm because he could not afford to buy a John Deere tractor to cultivate his land and plant his crops, howls with glee when he looks into his basket and sees the green and yellow tractor.
And so it goes, around and around, each taking from a basket just what he needs. Their joy is contagious! You find yourself laughing, joking, and eagerly anticipating what is contained in the next passed basket, not only for yourself but for the other ninety-eight.
Suddenly, you fully understand the Scripture that says, “It is better to give than to receive.”
The unseen voice gives a soft, simple command, “Stop.” Everyone is somewhat startled. This was such a great game! They wanted to continue on into the night but the voice insists that they stop.
He says, “Now everyone of you has received their last basket. Please look within and see that it contains all of the things that you need in this life.” They all look, shuffle a few items around within their baskets and give approving smiles; and amazingly, you find yourself doing the same thing.
You have never felt better in your life. By giving away the materialistic possessions that you so fiercely clung to, you find that a heavy burden has been lifted off of your shoulders.
For the first time in your life, you have found true peace and joy. You realize that you are connected to every man in the circle through a universal force of power and understanding. You are brothers; no, even more, you are all One!
The voice speaks again, “Again, look within your basket and find my gift to you.” The ninety-nine reach into their baskets, and, in unison, draw forth a small purple velvet-covered ring case.
“This is my gift to you for having participated in the Circle of Sharing. I give to you, my reader, the power to create a new paradigm of sharing for all of mankind.”
You open the small box and a blinding light of power flashes throughout the room. So bright is the light that the ninety-nine men appear to be translucent.
Reader, you have now been given the power by the Creator One to end the cycle of poverty and suffering for mankind. You can be a force for change; these written words are your empowerment. What will you do?
The room empties out as the men go on their way changed forever. Alongside the wall, stands an empty oak chair. Its former occupant is no longer relevant to the workings of man.
My Indian friend was truly impressed with this story. He asked, “Where did you come up with that story? I found it to be amazingly profound.” I explained his initial question had me at a loss. I had to look within to my guiding Soul for the answer to his question.
He then told me that I was a holy man sent by the gods to help mankind, to which I laughed. To anyone who knows me, I might be a lot of things, but being a holy man is not one of them.
But I have to admit, that there was a significant lesson taught in that little parable: If we desire to do so, we do have the power to change our behavior. You have the power to participate in the change.
You, the reader, are an integral part of the new paradigm to come. The option of sitting back on the sidelines and watching the game play by is no longer a viable option.