The future grows in the present1

There was a very rich man who had a slave. One day the slave saved the rich man’s only son from drowning. His master was extremely pleased with him and set him free. Not only that, but he also gave him lots of gifts and money plus a large sailing boat.

Now that the ex-slave had money, he hired some people to work his boat and set out on a voyage across the ocean.

Alas, one day there was a terrible cyclone. The boat sank and everybody drowned, except this former slave. He began swimming towards a nearby island. When he reached it, he saw that many people were waiting for him, crying with delight, “The King has come! The King has come!”

The man said, “Why are you calling me King? I have lost everything except this loin cloth that I am wearing.”

Everyone said, “This year you will be King. Every year we have a new king. You are King for this year.”

“But I don’t understand,” said the man.

“We appoint a new king every year and now it is your turn,” they said.

“Why are you so kind to me?” he asked. Then he said to himself, “Perhaps God, out of His infinite Bounty, is doing this since I have lost my boat.”

So he turned to the crowd and asked, “Tell me only one thing. Is it only for a year?”

“Yes,” came the reply.

“Then what will happen?” he asked.

They said, “Well, we shall throw you off of the island.”

He asked, “Then where shall I go?”

They answered, “We only know that the King rules for one year. Then he must leave the kingdom.”

The ex-slave asked, “Please, send me the wisest man in the kingdom.” When the man came, the new King asked, “Is it true that each king rules only for a year and then must leave the island? Then God alone knows what happens to him. Is there any advice you can give me so that at the end of a year I don’t become a beggar again?”

“Yes,” said the wise man. “Now that you are King, try to make yourself another kingdom on a nearby island. Transform another island into a kingdom by sending your people to make roads, gardens, houses and so forth. Do everything in this one year. When you have established another kingdom, why do you have to worry? At the end of the year you can go there.”

“How is it that my predecessors did not do this?” the man asked.

The wise man explained, “I told them, but they did not listen to me. They kept saying, ‘In a few weeks we shall do it.’ Then, two months before their reign was up, I used to tell them again, but they didn’t think of their future.”

The King said, “I will definitely listen to you. People will go find a new place where they will build another kingdom like this.” The wise man said, “Will you do it, or will you have the same fate as your predecessors?”

“No,” said the King, “I won’t allow myself to have the same fate. I will start from today to send people to do the needful.

“Always we have to think of the future. Always we have to remember that the future grows in the present. If there is a gap between the present and the future, if we do not think of the future, then some calamity will always take place.”

So the King sent out his subjects to build a new kingdom, and at the end of a year, the King went there and started ruling it.

  1. GIM 96. 24 January 1979