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Location: Penang, Malaysia

July 25, 2006

Parable - The Retiring Carpenter

I love to tell parables. I found that it is much easier to convey a message by using parables. When we were young, we used to listen to fables, such as the Aesop's Fables which have "embedded" moral narratives. The Chinese also have many stories or metaphors that actually served as the basis of proverbs and idioms. We learned many of them in primary school. Parables are the most interesting, I think, due to thier parallel meanings are actually unspoken or implicit, which make people think. Many people experienced paradigm shift after listening to parables but some don't like it and the excuse is "just be direct". I think differently. Parables contain not only the dilemma but the decisions and consequences as well.

I emphasize on the paradigm shift because I experienced it before when I was in secondary school. On one of the Monday morning assemblies, our discipline master, Mr. Tango Lima told us a parable. During those days, back in the 80s, it was hard to find this kind of stuffs. There was no Internet, of course. Anyway, it was a great one! It was the parable of the retiring carpenter. When I was in the United States for the very first time, more than 7 years ago, my co-worker sitting next to my cubicle who is also my sifu in Kajukenbo pinned this story in his office as well. The thought process linked me back. Here is the story in my own words.

There was once a very skillful carpenter. Due to his old age, he decided to retire and spend more time with his family. He told his boss about his decision. The boss was so sorry to see his long time employee leaving and decided to reward him. So, the boss went to the carpenter and told him that he would like him to build one more house for a very important person. However, the carpenter was no longer having his heart in the job. Even though the boss told him to choose the best material, he just simple used whatever that was easily available. Needless to say, the workmanship was poorer than the work of an apprentice.

After completing the house, the carpenter handed the keys to his boss. "Keep the keys", said the boss, "This house is for you. I don't know how to thank you for your service and your loyalty throughout all these years. Here is my gift for your retirement."

The carpenter was shocked to hear that. He was so ashamed that he didn't perform to his best in the very last project. He had to settled for something that was poorly built by himself. He would have built the house differently if he knew he was actually building his own house.

"Our Utmost For The Highest"

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