Other peoples’ problems

“Tell me your problems,” said the sage.

Someone began to speak, but was soon interrupted by others, as everyone knew that this was the last public hearing that the holy man was giving, and they feared that he wouldn’t have the time to listen to all of them. Minutes later, confusion was created, many voices were shouting at the same time, people were crying, men and women were tearing their hair out in despair because it was impossible to hear.

The wise man let the situation be prolonged a little, until he cried, “Silence!”

The crowd fell silent immediately.

“Write your problems down and put the papers in front of me,” he said.

When everyone finished, the wise man mixed all the papers in a basket, then said, “Keep this basket moving amongst you. Each of you will take a paper, and read it. You will then choose whether to keep your problems, or take the one given to you.”

Each person took a sheet of paper, read it, and was horrified. They concluded that what they had written, however bad it was, was not as serious as what ailed his neighbor. Two hours later, they exchanged papers amongst themselves, and each one had to put their personal problems back into his or her pocket, relieved that their distress was not as hard as they once thought.

– Paulo Coelho’s Warrior of the Light

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