It was hot and dry in this part of the land. The rain, when it fell, was woefully inadequate to quench the thirst of the many crops the people of Mura village had planted. The village well provided enough water for the people but it couldn’t be spared for the crops. Fortunately, the village sat upon a hilly rise above the glistening waters of Lake Tanko. The lake was fed through underground springs that came down from the nearby Yama mountain range. The water was fresh and plentiful. But the land around the lake was not suitable for crops. It was rocky and uneven. The villagers had to plant their crops up on the flat of a nearby hill next to the village where the soil was rich.
Mura village was not a very prosperous village and all of the young men and women had many responsibilities that left little time to haul water up from the lake. The older men and women of the village simply were not strong enough to carry the amount of water needed up the long trail from the lake to the fields. It was a constant dilemma.
On this day, as the sun grew higher in the sky, the villagers were meeting to discuss their problem. They didn’t know what to do. Young Taro had returned from gathering wood and had told his father about the sage he had met on the road that morning. It was at this precise moment that Zin, the Wandering Sage entered the village. His gray robe was dusty and his face was covered by the shadow of the large straw hat.
“That’s him!” Taro cried. “Perhaps he could give us some advice.”
Taro’s father, Tosan, was the village elder. He stood and bowed as the sage approached.
“Good day to you, sir. My son says that you have been kind to him this day.”
“I have no other way of being,” Zin replied.
“He says you are a wise man from a distant land.”
“I am simply a traveler” Zin said, “and my journey has brought me to your village.”
“Perhaps in your travels you have encountered a problem similar to ours and could
provide some knowledge as to how we can solve it,” Tosan said.
“Anything is possible,” Zin replied.
Tosan quickly told the sage about the crops in the fields and the long distance it was to get water from the lake and the shortage of people to carry it.
Zin thought for a few moments as the villagers shuffled their feet and looked at each other. “It would appear that you need a water bearer.” The sage finally said.
The villagers continued shuffling their feet and looking at each other.
“If you would be kind enough to provide me with a place to sleep and a meal or two,” Zin continued, “I will offer my services as water bearer for your village until the fall harvest.”
The villagers drew a collective gasp. They had not expected this.
“Cer…cer… certainly, sir.” Tosan said, moving forward and bowing deeply.
“I would be most honored if you would stay in my house.”
Returning the bow, Zin became the village water bearer.
The next day Zin searched the whole village but could only find two water buckets.
One of the water buckets was strong and sturdy. The other bucket looked sturdy, but sadly it had a small hole in the bottom.
“The rest of our buckets were lost in a barn fire this past winter.” Tosan explained.
Zin shrugged and began his task. He carried the buckets down the long winding path to the lake and filled them. Then he hauled them back up the path to the village. When he reached the fields the strong and sturdy bucket was full, but the bucket with the hole was only half full. The rest of the water had leaked out through the hole in the bottom.
Up and down, back and forth, over and over Zin carried the water buckets. Each and every time he reached the fields the strong and sturdy bucket was full, but each and every time he reached the fields the other bucket with the hole was only half full.
Every day Zin carried the water buckets along the meandering trail from the lake to the village. Up and down, back and forth, over and over.
The bucket with the hole was quite ashamed at its imperfection and miserable that it could only perform half of what it had been made for. It was not a happy bucket.
The sturdy bucket was proud of its ability to stay full.
Not too proud, mind you, it was just a bucket after all…
The bucket with the hole tried to do everything it could to hold its water.
But, being a bucket with a hole in it, that was not much.
Summer wore on and Zin carried the water buckets from the lake to the fields. Up and down, back and forth, over and over every day.
At last the harvest came and it was a bountiful crop. Everyone in the village rejoiced at their good fortune. With the harvest the demand for crop water dropped off and Zin’s job was finished.
The villagers thanked Zin for all of his work. Zin thanked the two buckets for all of their work. At this point the bucket with the hole could hold back no longer.
“Uhm, sir, I’m sorry.”
“Why?” Zin raised his eyebrow, apparently unsurprised at a talking bucket.“I’m useless!” the bucket cried. “Every day you carry water from the lake to the village, up and down, back and forth, over and over, and every time half of the water I’m carrying leaks out before we get to the fields.” “That’s how it is,” Zin nodded. “But I can’t stop leaking… what a waste.” “It’s not about what you can’t do.” Zin said as he picked up the bucket and carried it to the door. “Look.”
He opened the door and gestured out to the trail leading down to Lake Tanko, sparkling azure blue in the afternoon sunlight below the village.
The bucket looked.
As far as the eye could see, from the shores of the lake to the distant fields… one side of the meandering trail was lined with flowers and herbs. It was beautiful, almost magical.
Everywhere else was dry and barren.
“I knew you leaked, so I planted seeds along the trail.” Zin said. “Now the villagers have herbs for medicine and cooking.”
The bucket would have cried with joy, but since it was still just a bucket with a hole in it, it dripped.
Zin smiled. “Everyone has their own unique flaws. But it is the flaws we each have that make life interesting and rewarding. Take everyone for what they are and look for the good within.”