Carmen Abner

Stone Soup

I promised y’all a serving of Stone Soup this week so here it is. 

The story of stone soup was one of my favorite stories my mommy told while I was growing up. She was really good at teaching stories and this one is no exception.  Some of you might already be familiar with the story but for those of you who are not it goes something like this.

There once was a village, the people of which were suffering.  There had been a war, or plague, or pestilence.  It really doesn’t matter which.  Everyone was running out of food and hope.  The children were hungry all the time and no one could think of anything to do about it.

One morning one of the village elders, an old woman who had seen many winters, got up, built a fire under her big kettle, filled it with water and placed a stone within it.  Soon the fire was dancing and the water was boiling. The stone danced in the boiling water.

One of the younger men of the village, with tired and hungry eyes, approached her and said, “Grandmother, what are you doing?”  She replied, “I am making soup to feed the village.”  The man, thinking hunger had gotten the better of her, said,  “But grandmother, all you are cooking is a stone.  You cannot feed the village stone soup.”

“It is all I have,” she replied, “and the village must be fed. 

His heart softened toward her and he said, “I think I have an onion left.  Let me fetch it and add it to the kettle.” 

He did so.  Other people in the village began watching the two and came forward to inquire as to what might be happening.  “We are making stone soup to feed the village,” said the two.  “You cannot feed the village with a stone and an onion.” They replied.  “It is all we have,” they said, “and the village must be fed." 

One by one the other people of the village approached, all asking the same question and receiving the same reply.  “The village must be fed.”  And one by one they all remembered some small bit of something they had been saving against starvation.  And one by one they each added that something to the kettle.  A potato here, a carrot there, some dried meat, a half sack of beans, a cup of rice, a clove of garlic, half a cabbage.   None of it was enough to feed one person by itself but together, by the afternoon, there was enough soup to feed the entire village for several days.  By putting what they had together they gained enough food and enough strength to go hunt a few rabbits and dig a few tubers and gather some winnowed grain.  Each of them added whatever they could find to the kettle each day and the village survived long enough for times to get better.

The philosophy of this story is self-evident.  We all do better when we all do better. We are often called upon to survive by remembering that we must take one another personally and open our hearts and our larders and our hands to the needs of others.

This story has always reminded me of that other great teaching story told a couple thousand years ago about the loaves and fishes.  The same principle applies.  When we gather together what we have and share it with one another, it is not at all unusual that we find that our cup, or our bowl, runneth over.  The miracle we should take from that, I believe, is that the true miracles on this earth are those we create by loving one another as ourselves.  Someone once said it better than me but the story and the lesson are still relevant.  Let us serve one another at the table of our shared humanity and hunger, loneliness and fear will no longer find a seat among us.

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