Care for the Goose

A gifted psychotherapist spent a decade working 65- to 70-hour work weeks, often working one full-time job and two part-time jobs, multiple back-to-back speaking engagements, and literary writing. Her friends warned to not burn herself out, that she was on an exhausting pace. Still, she tarried onward, for in her eyes, God said the need was great.

Reality has a way of sneaking in. On a crisp warm spring morning last year, she awoke with no voice. Multiple trips to multiple medical specialists returned a similar prognosis – her voice chords were nearly paralyzed. Fearing the worst, she turned to prayer, then to various concoctions of honey, seaweed and aloe shakes, over-the-counter allergy medicines and finally use of a voice microphone. However, she kept working.

A year of unanswered prayers whizzed past. She experienced little to no relief from shakes and over-the-counter medicines. Exhausted, she returned to medical professionals. The update? Her voice chords were completely paralyzed. Thus, all that raw talent, knowledge and ability to assist those in need are locked forever – a voice chord away.

Aesop’s fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs should echo for all of us. The fable details a struggling farmer who finds an egg made of gold. Thinking someone ‘punk’d’ him, the egg was appraised and found to be real. Using the gift wisely, the goose lays a golden egg every day and the farmer becomes rich.

Like many before, finding talent and using it wisely are often polar opposites. The farmer convinced himself there lay an infinite goldmine inside the goose. In a fit of greed, he killed the goose and finds nothing.

The Buddha told his followers a similar story. A man who died was reborn as a golden goose. He remembered his old family and felt a pang thinking of how, since his death, they were barely scraping by. So, he went to them and released one of his valuable feathers. “I’ll always provide for you,” the goose promised. Day after day, he gave the family another feather until they had enough gold to buy soft beds and rich foods.

But his former wife grew greedy and one day lured the goose close with sweet words. She grabbed him, pinned his beating wings and plucked all of his golden feathers. Since the goose couldn’t fly, his wife threw him into a barrel, fed him skinny scraps of food, and waited for his feathers to grow back. But when they did, she was disappointed: instead of the golden glint she was hoping for, the new feathers were as white as icy silence.

Essentially, all three stories teach the same lesson. However, the gifted psychotherapist is a friend and her’s story is tragically filled with real-life consequences. Prayers unanswered, she remains voiceless.

Stephen Covey used Aesop’s fable to illustrate that the more you produce, the more you do, the more effective you are is illusion. You can wear yourself out helping all sorts of causes, but a certain point, you face diminishing returns as your body fails from lack of care and sleep.

The lesson? You have to care for the goose.



Categories: Life Lessons

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