– By Nick Gurevich –
One day a stranger came to a small, remote village. He looked like a man in need – his clothes were worn out, and he was tired and hungry. Some villagers took pity on him and gave him bread and water which he accepted with gratitude. After satisfying his hunger and quenching his thirst the stranger asked the villagers if he could stay.
Now, it must be noted: if there was anything special about the people of this small and remote village, it was their seemingly insatiable curiosity. Since the stranger looked very different from anybody else in the village, he naturally roused their curiosity. And so, to satisfy it, they decided to allow the stranger to stay. He was given an old abandoned house in a state of complete disrepair which nobody in the village wanted, with a small field all covered with stones.
At first all was going well. During the day the stranger worked very hard doing odd jobs for the villagers, the kind of work they would rather not do themselves. In the evening, he would work even harder, repairing the old decrepit house he was now living in and clearing the small field of stones, making a fence with them around it.
In the beginning, the villagers liked what he was doing. “He is a hard working man,” they said to each other. “We did the right thing by allowing him to stay.” But as the house began to look better and better and the field got clearer and clearer, the villagers started to feel uneasy about the whole affair.
“I could have had this house and field too,” each of them thought. And they began to envy the stranger for having the house and the field none of them had wanted before. Little by little, the envy was turning into hatred.
The stranger however, was so absorbed in what he was doing, he didn’t notice. He was working as hard as ever until finally the house was completely repaired and the field cleared of all stones. Then he painted the house in bright colours and in the field he planted seeds.
Soon beautiful flowers sprang up, together with the brightly painted house – it was a wonderful sight to behold. But instead of enjoying the view, the villagers envied and hated the stranger even more.
“He is the one,” they said, “who came here as a stranger. He had nothing and we gave him everything. He ate our bread and drank our water. We gave him a house to live in and a field to till. And now he is better off than we are.” Actually it wasn’t all true, but that didn’t seem to matter. The villagers were very angry and filled with hate.
Then one dark night they came. They killed the stranger and burned the house. They broke down the fence and strewed the stones all over the field, destroying the flowers. And then they left.
In the morning, the whole village gathered around the burnt house and saw what they had done. Nobody expressed any regrets. On the contrary, they all felt a sense of relief. And they lived, they believed, happily ever after.