Filling the Emotional Bank Account
In the Warring States period, China was unfortunately divided into a handful of countries. They were frequently at war with one another. Civilians were slaughtered by the thousands. Competent people we always in great demand by the governments. Consequently, as a custom, wealthy princes and lords provided free lodging, food, and a regular salary to attract people with talents and abilities. They would be hired as political consultants or, if there were no vacancies, be called “house guests.” At the end of the third century B.C., a well-known lord, Meng-Ch’ang, who personally supported over three thousand house guests, one day asked who would help him to collect some debts.
One guest named Feng Shuan promptly responded, and the rich master ordered his servants to prepare a carriage. “Your Lordship,” the guest politely asked before departing, “what should I buy after I collect all the money?”
“Buy anything you think I need,” the lord responded casually.
Traveling for days, the guest reached the destined town and immediately assembled all the debtors. In a huge outdoor park, a few hundred shabbily-dressed and worry-stricken farmers, patiently waiting to present their reasons for delaying the payment. All of them were poor farmers and couldn’t afford to repay the full amount.
Viewing this miserable spectacle Feng Shuan was speechless. Having accepted the duty to collect the debt, Yuan knew he could not return without the money. Yet these people obviously could not pay. Pondering his dilemma for a while, Feng Shuan was struck with inspiration. After carefully checking and confirming each of the I.O.U.’s, he ordered his assistants to collect and burn all of the papers. He then turned to the crowd and proudly announced that due to the generosity of their master, this year’s debts were totally exempted.
“Long life to the lord!” shouted Feng Shuan. With surprise and appreciation, farmers hurrahed in unison at the top of their course voices. This clever guest quickly returned to the lord’s mansion. “You must be very capable,” the master said, impressed by the swiftness of Shuan’s return. “Did you buy anything special for me?”
“Yes, I did,” the guest courteously answered. “Knowing Your Lordship has plenty of jewelry, well-bred horses, hounds, lands, houses, and other valuables far beyond an ordinary person’s wildest dreams, I didn’t think Your Lordship needed any material thing. Therefore, I decided to buy for you “gratitiude.”
“What is that?” questioned the lord. “I never heard of such an item before.”
“For many years,” the guest continued “Your Lordship has forcused on accumulating enormous wealth for your own enjoyment. On the other hand, even after a year’s labor, those woeful farmers still couldn’t pay their debts in full. The balance, compounded with high interest, would create even more debt, a vicious circle from which they could never be free. So on behalf of Your Lordship, I exempted their debts and canceled all of the I.O.U.’s”
The lord was shocked by this bold act, but remembered his own words, “Buy anything you think I need,” and reluctantly accepted this vexatious fact.
One year later, in severe political struggle, this lord fell out of favor. His servants fled, the “house guests” disappeared, and his friends abandoned him. All of his properties were immediately confiscated and his life threatened.
Under a moonless night, with a chilly north wind nashing at him, the lord, accompanied only by Feng Shuan and a few faithful servants, fled forhis life from the capitol city. They dared not to stop and traveled for days without rest. Running out of food, they soon found themselves on the edge of starvation.
While approaching a distant town at dawn one day, the lord observed with great amazement hundreds of people standing on the roadside, carrying meats, wine and other food and patiently waiting to welcome him. Soon his coach was surrounded. He stepped down and received the crowd, who submissively presented their provisions. Hurriedly consuming this welcome meal, the lord gratefully praised his house guest. “Now, I understand the use of the “gratitude”, which you bought for me last year.”
Do small kindnesses in your hay days. You will have some faithful friends to help you out on your rainy days.