The Most Precious Thing

Nearly a thousand years ago a great army besieged a castle. Day after day, the army bombarded it with great boulders and flaming arrows. All roads and footpaths into and out from the castle were cut off, and the hidden underground tunnel had been found and filled with mortar and tar. Neither food nor water could pass through the cruel blockade, and any messenger dispatched from the castle to seek help from the outside world was captured and put to the sword.

After many weeks the commander of the besieging force sent a message to the defenders of the castle. “I will show you mercy. I will allow the women and children to pass through in safety. I will provide them all with food and clothing to survive the winter. In addition they may take with them one item, one precious possession, but nothing more. Once they have passed through our lines in safety, my soldiers will burn the castle and slaughter all the men inside. I await your decision. You have until dawn, after which your castle will be set to the torch.”

The defenders considered the proposal and decided to accept. Dawn the following day saw a slow procession of women and children leaving the castle, each woman carrying her most precious possession: her husband.

Can we make a pact, you and I, right now, proclaiming amnesty to both the besiegers and the besieged?

Our time has been called by some the Age of Anger. Decisions are made in anger. Policies are set by anger. Blame replaces responsibility and at the root of blame and anger lies fear.

What are we afraid of? Death? Discomfort? The truth? Or simply each other?

Why can’t we learn that hate, suspicion, prejudice, and lies simply don’t work and are doomed in the end?

Why can’t we see, more than once a year, that love, trust, respect and the truth, though fought, always prevail?

How many castles must be besieged and burned before we see this?

And in our own personal lives, how many times have we ourselves been the besiegers of the castle? How many times have we been the besieged? And how many times, in our flounderings and confusions, have we been both besieger and besieged?

Can we make a pact, you and I, right now, proclaiming amnesty to both the besiegers and the besieged? Can we do that, here in this holiday season, and start afresh? Can we then extend that amnesty beyond the season and into the foreseeable and unforeseeable future? It’s simple, really, if we just keep in mind what our most valuable possession is and always will be: each other.

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