The Form Letter

There was once a king who was very proud of the ministers, advisers and other top-ranking leaders in his kingdom. In his view, each individual was blessed with a unique and most significant role to play. When one of his ministers or other top leaders had achieved something most extraordinary, the king wrote them a letter to express his appreciation for their great accomplishments.

One day the Minister of Transportation received such a letter of appreciation from the king. This young and promising minister was overjoyed. He had spent three full years working with his staff to construct a new and very strong bridge across a wide and raging river. The people in the kingdom were all admiration for his supreme achievement. He read and re-read his letter, getting more and more joy. He showed it to all his friends, and they were so happy for him.

Only one friend of the minister became jealous and said, "You have done a very good job, no doubt. I am glad you are happy, but I must tell you something important for your own sake. Many other ministers, and even some ordinary citizens, get letters like this from the king. So please, do not gloat over this and do not brag about this to anyone. After all, what you have received is not unique. It is actually just a form letter."

An old and trusted adviser to the king happened to overhear the minister's friend. Immediately, the adviser said to the so-called friend, "You fool, how many people have received such letters? You say that the king sends such letters to everybody. Have you ever received such a letter?"

The king's adviser then said to the minister, "You have done something most extraordinary! The king is extremely, extremely proud of you, and that is why he has written you such a glowing letter of appreciation. Not only the king but every citizen of the kingdom who cares for our progress-life is extremely proud of you.

"I am sure you know that our kingdom is very vast and has many, many people. Even if the king has written similar letters of appreciation to two hundred other people, your achievement is still most significant! You are one of a small number of human beings to have received such a letter from the king. It is like a team of volleyball players who have all played well and won their match. Every one of the players is thrilled to have won.

"Suppose you were in the army and you and your friends got the same promotion and got the same stripes to wear. Each of the soldiers takes pride in becoming a lieutenant, because each has made so much progress and has gone up one level. Jealous people will say, 'O so many people got the same thing. Therefore, it is of no value.'

"Similarly, when students get their university degrees, the students and their families are all delighted. Tens of thousands of people get a bachelor's degree every year, but all of those who graduate feel that they have done something truly great to earn a college degree.

"A third person who has not gone to college might say, 'What is so special about getting a bachelor's degree when so many people get degrees every year?' In fact, millions of people in the world are not getting a university degree. If you feel that your achievement is not unique, it is simply not true. For you, it is unique. For each and every person who receives a letter from the king, his achievement is unique. Again, for every individual who earns a university degree or wins a sports victory, his achievement is also unique."

The king's adviser continued, "In our annual soccer tournament, there is always one team that triumphs. Usually one or two players on the team are extremely good, and they contribute the most to the victory of the entire team. All the teammates are thrilled to win. Each and every player is appreciated and admired by everyone in the kingdom. The medal given to the best players on the winning team is exactly the same as the medal presented to all the other players on the team. Just because someone is the best player, does he get a larger medal? No! Does he get a diamond? No. The best player is so proud and so happy that his team won the title match. In fact, he is delighted to share the victory with his teammates, and they are all proud to be on the winning team. They are all amongst the top athletes of the entire kingdom.

"My dear minister-friend, even if you did receive a form letter from the king, I see that he has used the word commitment in his letter to you. Only if someone has achieved something really outstanding, will the king use the word commitment. For people who have not done anything extraordinary, but whom the king simply wants to encourage for one reason or another, there will perhaps be another form letter. Even if hundreds of people are getting a letter similar to yours, in no way does this diminish your stellar achievement.

"How can someone say, 'Because hundreds of players have won the national soccer medal over the years, mine is not valuable,' or, 'Because thousands of people are getting a university degree, mine is useless'?

"Again, in the small town where I grew up, some of the old ladies might hear that you have built a bridge across the river. One of them might casually brag, 'Oh, I could have easily done the same thing if I wanted to!' Then, long before the time came for her to submit the first set of plans for the bridge, she would die of worries and anxieties that something might go wrong!"

The minister was overjoyed. He said to the adviser, "You have wisdom in boundless measure. I must admit that I was saddened and upset by what my friend was saying. I was even starting to doubt the value of my own achievement. What you are telling me now has given me so much joy and pride in what together we have been able to achieve for the kingdom."

The king's adviser said, "I am so happy to be of dedicated service to you. After all, in every field there are people who are coming to the fore. To say that because you received a form letter, it is somehow not valuable, is not correct. Even if two thousand people received the same letter, it is still very significant. After all, there are countless people in the kingdom.

"Let us look at it in another way. I am the head of my family. All of my sons and daughters, plus their own children, come together and eat dinner at our house once a month. My wife and I, our sons and daughters, and all our grandchildren are eating the same food. One of the grandchildren could say, 'If you give my sister the same food as you give me, then I will not eat it.' They do not do this, because they are happy to be together and to be part of our family. Again, there will be millions of people who are not in our family who will not have the same delicious meal as we do.

"In any group, if everyone gets the same thing, in what way does each person's prestige and honour disappear? Your bridge project proved that the secret to success in any endeavour is teamwork. If someone on a sports team does very well, then everyone on the team gets the glory. When a soccer team wins, are the players lined up by how many points each one has scored? No! Because all eleven individuals were playing together as a team, one person was able to score many goals, and the entire team was able to win the game. Alone, will any player be able to fight against eleven players on the other team? When there is teamwork, everyone wins the victory.

"The real glory and the real joy are in belonging to a group. The team that wins the national medal is appreciated, as a group, by the entire kingdom. Why should only one player be appreciated, when the whole team worked together? Yes, the captain receives the prize, but he does so on behalf of all his teammates. All the players proudly stand together when the game is over and happily receive the same award.

"In all of our activities, life is teamwork. I am happy because I am a team member. If one individual says, 'I deserve much more and much better recognition than the rest of my teammates,' then that person must form a group all by himself. Nobody will be there to accompany that individual or to support him. When we are associated with others and part and parcel of a group, we get joy.

"You have just seen from your own experience how people who are jealous and mean-minded try to take away the joy of people who have gained something special. Indeed, you are not the only person to win something, and I am not the only person to win something; but we do deserve what we have won and, therefore, we have every reason to be happy.

"If someone else claims to have achieved the same as I have achieved, what right do I have to belittle that person's accomplishment? Because others have also worked towards the same goal as I have, they also won the prize. Unfortunately, very often the people who have done nothing are the ones who try to take away the joy of the people who have worked very hard. On the strength of our oneness, we have all worked together to achieve something. Together we have worked. Together we will gain the same merit.

"Every achievement is always a group effort. Like you, every minister or top citizen in the kingdom who does something truly outstanding receives a letter from the king. To try to belittle someone's accomplishment by saying that others also have done the same thing is the height of jealousy, meanness and stupidity. When people speak that way, they do not realise they are only creating division. It is only the division-creating mind that is speaking in and through these people. Your friend could not possibly do what you have done, so he tried to take away all your joy. He, and others who act like him, are actually very jealous.

"These jealous people behave as if they are trying to reveal the truth to you by saying that you are not the only one. But the truth is not like that. Truth is not the monopoly of one individual. The real truth is this: you have served the king and all the king's subjects most sincerely, most devotedly and most successfully. You are now part of an elite group of people who have received a wonderful message of appreciation from the king. You can be extremely happy with and extremely proud of your glorious achievement."

The minister said to the king's most trusted adviser, "I am so grateful to you for having illumined me. I shall always aspire to deserve the precious letter offered to me by the king. I shall always work to serve the king and each of his subjects with every breath of my heart."