The matchsticks

Two friends went to a village market and sold their wares. They were returning home quite satisfied when one friend said to the other, “Let us rest here for a few minutes and smoke. I have only one cheroot. Do you have anything?”

The other one said, “Yes, I have two matchsticks.”

“Then let us share the cheroot,” said the first one.

He held the cheroot while his friend tried to strike the first matchstick. For some reason, it did not strike. Now there was only one matchstick left. The first man said, “If this one does not strike, we will not be able to smoke at all. Everything depends on this matchstick.”

The other fellow closed his eyes and started praying with folded hands.

The first friend said, “Why do you have to pray to God for this trivial thing?”

The second one replied, “I do not want to take any chance. I am praying to God in case something happens to this one also and it does not strike.”

When his prayers were over, he tried the last matchstick. Again nothing happened. There was no flame. The first friend said, “Why did you bother to pray? Look at the result! Prayer is useless. When we pray, God never grants us our prayer.”

The second friend said, “No, He did listen. But when I prayed, God told me something.”

The first friend was curious. “What did God tell you?” he asked.

The second friend said, “God told me that at this place, all around us, is a large quantity of straw. It is extremely dry. If the matchstick had worked, we would have used it to light the cheroot and then we would have thrown it on the ground, the way we always do. Then the straw would have caught fire. Right beside this area is a beautiful park. That park would have been destroyed. And the park contains so many little animals and birds. All of them would have perished. You know that God is so fond of birds. If we die, God may not care; but if little innocent birds or animals die, then God will feel absolutely miserable. That is why God told me that He was not going to allow us to strike the match successfully and smoke the cheroot.”

Perhaps the first friend was secretly jealous that God had not spoken to him also. Outwardly he said, in a mocking tone, “I see! God cares more for his little birds and animals than He does for human beings! Then we should also become birds and animals. From now on, let us pray to God to change us into birds and animals so that He will care for us!”

The second friend remained silent, but in the inmost recesses of his heart, he was deeply grateful to God for not allowing the destruction of the park and all the little creatures dwelling there.