The Boy, The Lion, and the Stick

A boy and his elder were walking in the mountains and came across a lion. Before the elder could stop him, the boy poked the lion with his walking stick.

The lion sprung up and growled.

The boy raised his stick and got into a fighting stance. “Get back!” he yelled, but the lion roared.

The elder lowered the stick of the child, put her arm around him, and pulled him close.

The lion roared and stepped closer. It got right in the boy’s face, roared so loudly it moved the boy’s hair, and then moved in front of the elder, who stood as still as the mountain.

Looking into the eyes of the lion, she spoke. Her words were soft and steady: “I am sorry that the boy poked you. I understand your growl.”

The lion roared.

The elder stood with the boy stone-still, save for the slightest nod of her chin.

The lion roared, louder. Louder. LOUDER!

And then it turned away.

The elder waited until the lion laid back down, and then pulled the boy and his stick away.

“Your are courageous,” said the boy.

“I am respectful,” said the elder.

“You faced that lion,” said the boy.

“I faced the fate that you created.” the elder said, and then turned to the boy, her eyes dark as night, reaching into his soul. “How is it that you use your stick but don’t expect the roar?”

The boy looked at his stick.

“You hold the stick and tell the lion to stop. But you cannot stop it. It is nature. As the wind blows, the trees bend. This is how it is.”

She raised his chin with her coarse, thick fingers.

“Listen to me now, my boy. In these words, you will find real truth and the real courage that you seek: The only way out of a lion’s roar is to put down the stick.”

She put her hand on the boy’s shoulder, gently this time, and softened her mouth. “This is even more true if it is your stick that created the roar.”

She opened her hand, a hand with so many folds and scars, that even the trees respected her.

The boy handed her his stick.

She used the stick to pry a rock loose in the ground. A salamander, awakened by the light, scurried into the grass.

“Now you understand the lion’s roar,” she said, patting his little round belly.

“… Whether you are the lion or the stick.”