The story is of Pious the Packrat, who wanders around town gathering up any interesting things he can find on the street. He takes them home and displays them in a room of his house that he calls the Room of Wonders. Other small animals come to view the items as though they were in a museum. In the center of the room, in the place of importance, stands a pedestal which displays a small, gray stone. Pious’s friends and visitors all question the stone, and tell him that he should just get rid of it. They call it an “eyesore.” Eventually, Pious comes to believe his friends, so one day he takes the stone off the pedestal, carries it to the river, and throws it in. After that, he goes back to his room, but then the collection no longer holds any interest for him. He grows so tired of all of the stuff he had once liked so much that he starts to give the items away to his visitors. He wanders around town, depressed, for four days not wanting to collect anything anymore, and thinking back to the time when he had first found the stone. The stone had been the first item he had collected for his room, and now that it was gone, none of the rest of his treasures held any meaning. Eventually he finds a new stone, takes it home, and displays it on a shelf. After that, he begins collecting again, and in a short time, his room is back to full and his guests return. In the center of the room stands the pedestal with the new stone proudly displayed.
I like this story, because it is a reminder of the importance of beginnings in our lives. A mentor of mine once told me, long ago, that “everyone has a beginning. For some, their beginning is their home growing up. For some it might be their divorce, a tragedy, or some other experience they have had that has shaped their lives. If you can listen enough to learn the story of that beginning, everything else in a person’s life makes a lot more sense.” After telling me this, he asked me what my beginning was, and I found I couldn’t answer. I was in my early twenties, and facing a lot of problems. I think I was trying to decide, along with Hamlet, “whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.” I needed more experience, first. I can now look back and see what some of my stones were, but I’m sure I don’t have them all figured out yet, even at thirty-six.
Our stones – our beginnings – might not seem that significant to others, but to ourselves we may build everything around that one experience. Maybe we display that stone prominently in the center of the room, or maybe we aren’t even aware of it, or of the fact that without it our whole life might fall apart.
So, what are your stones? Is it important enough to hold onto, or would you be better off discarding it somehow and building a new collection of memories on a new stone?