Roy Exum: A Fable And A Parable

Thursday, December 26, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It is believed that a man who was named Aesop lived even before the birth of Christ in ancient Greece and, although he was a slave, he was a legendary story teller. The fabulous “Aesop’s Fables” were read to me as a small boy and they are just as wonderful today; they never seem to age.

Sometime during the 1st century Apollonius of Tyana described Aesop like this: “Like those who dine well off the plainest dishes, he made use of humble incidents to teach great truths, and after serving up a story he adds to it the advice to do a thing or not to do it.”

A parable, on the other hand, is an imaginary story that is used to teach a moral or spiritual lesson. I have a great friend in Texas who shares stories with me from time to time and, after a very full Christmas Day, I’d like to pass along a fable (advice) and parable (lesson) he shared with me not long ago.

It is believed that the authors of both stories are unknown.


An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. 

The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career. 

When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter:

"This is your house," he said, "my gift to you."

What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well. 

So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realized that we would have done it differently.

Think of our self as the carpenter. Think about our house. Each day we hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life we will ever build. Even if we live for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity.

We built our life today. It is the result of our attitudes and the choices we have made in the past.

We can build the life we want. It will be the exact result of our attitudes and the choices we make today and tomorrow.

-- Author Unknown

* * *


It was a busy morning and about 8:30 a.m. an elderly gentleman in his 80's arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00am.

I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would be able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound.

On exam it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.

While taking care of his wound, we began to engage in conversation I asked him if he had a doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife.

I then inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer Disease. As we talked, and I finished dressing his wound, I asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

I was surprised, and asked him.

"And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?"

He smiled as he patted my hand and said.

"She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is."

I had to hold back tears as he left, I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought,

"That is the kind of love I want in my life."

True love is neither physical, nor romantic. True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be, and will not be.

-- Author Unknown

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