There once was a simple farmer who lived on a small piece of land with his family. His wife was a kind and beautiful soul and everyone that knew her spoke well of her and admired her pleasant nature. She gave the farmer three children of exceptional grace and each was clever and loving and together the Farmer’s family lived on their small homestead, working together and sharing what they had with each other in harmony. Their home was a humble cottage though it was never in need of a shingle, nor its clapboards a coat of paint and they all took pride in the fields and gardens that they worked each day, season after season. Their herds, while small, were well cared for and gave them plenty to eat all of their lives.
One day the Farmer took his children, when they were very small, into the barn and bade them to gather round. He took an old bucket from its hook on the wall and had them each take a turn picking it up by the bail. It was extraordinarily heavy for its size and the Farmer leaned in close to whisper to them a secret, saying —
“This bucket is no ordinary thing, it is made of gold and has been painted so that no one can recognize its value.”
The children’s eyes went wide at the thought.
“I am telling you this today because I want to make a promise to you that if you do as I ask I will one day pass my fortune on to you and you will be able to enjoy lives that are rich indeed.”
The children leaned in closer as he lowered his voice —
“I must ask of you a simple promise in return.”
They nodded their heads as one.
“No one must know what I have told you about this bucket. its value must be kept a secret until I am on my death bed and only then will you be able to understand its true worth.”
Their mouth hung open as he went on —
“Whenever you take this bucket to water the animals or to milk the goats, you must treat it with reverence, clean it, carry it with purpose, always return it to its place of hiding in the open where any one else will miss its true value for its common appearance. Never leave it behind, never allow it to drop on the ground, always handle it as if it is worth more than anything else in the world and one day you will ALL be wealthy indeed.”
And so his children did. Every time they carried water from the well to the calves and the lambs, they held the bucket so that not a drop of clear water should spill from its lip and when they carried the sweet warm milk to their Mother so that she could make them cheese and butter they handled the bucket with great care. As heavy as it was, made heavier still when it was full, their tender arms took the weight and as they grew up strong and straight their muscles made the weight seem as if it were but a feather. Each of them dreamed to themselves of what lay beneath the layer of dark paint and no matter the weather or the time of day they carried that bucket with smiles upon their faces understanding the value it contained, hidden to all but the Farmer and themselves.
The children grew up loved and well fed and they spent their happiest hours at the side of their Mother and Father helping with the work on their farm with gladness and joy. No chore was too arduous, no task beneath them. They watched as their labors helped to expand the flocks and herds and as their parents added acres to their holding one little bit at a time and never was any of them tempted to dip into their inheritance for they knew that their Father’s word, like the bucket, was golden. In time they became adults and took spouses to spend their lives with and they remained close by to help with their parent’s farm always offering to carry the bucket and wipe it clean before returning it to the hook in the well kept barn. Eventually they had children of their own and as much as they wished to share the story their Father had told them, they kept their word as they had promised, but showed their children how to carry the bucket with care and to treat it as if it were valuable beyond its simple purpose.
By and by the years passed and the Farmer, an old man now, took a fall in his field one day and was taken to his bed. His wife called the children to come and bid their farewells because the doctor had told her that his time had come and he would soon depart this world. His family came to the house, a stately place in its simplicity, surrounded by well kept fields and thriving herds and orchards ripe with fruit. The bedroom was filled, with children and grand-children and his loving wife, sitting at his side, held his gnarled hand in hers.
The Farmer cleared his throat and spoke —
“You have been a blessing to me throughout my life, your love has given me wealth beyond measure and I promised you long ago that upon my deathbed I would share with you my fortune.”
He nodded to his children and asked that they go to the barn and bring him the bucket from its hook. A candle flickered at the bedside table and the Farmer closed his eyes for a moment with a smile upon his face. When they returned to the room they brought the bucket, burnished by age and well worn with care, but heavy still with the hidden weight of its true value and placed it on the bed beside him. He beckoned towards his Barlow knife upon the table and when they handed it to him he opened it with great care and looking at his family with eye’s as clear as day and said —
“All these years you have done as I asked. You have worked hard, you have given us no trouble, you have treated each tool and possession with respect and care, been good to each other and fair in all your dealings. You have wonderful families of your own that make you proud as well and your own children are much like you were to me, and they have brought us the greatest joy. And each of you has made their own fortune in life through the work of their hands, the sweat of their brows and the goodness in your hearts.”
As he spoke he scraped the blade of the knife against the side of the bucket, peeling away the years of paint that concealed what lay beneath. And in the dim light of the bedside candle they saw that instead of gold it was only lead.
“I have given you my fortune, hidden in this bucket, far more valuable than gold.”
TRUE WEALTH IS GIVEN TO THOSE WHO EARN IT.