The people of Tish loved their village.
It had a lovely town square, where they often held big market days and other special events. They had very nice, friendly neighbours. After all, they were nice, friendly people. And, all around the village, was a large, strong protective wall, with a big, sturdy gate at one end. Every morning they opened the gate and went out to the countryside. To work their farms, get fresh water from the stream, or just to go picnicking with their kids. At night, they closed the gate and slept feeling safe.
Their wall had a rich history. It had been built a long time ago, during a dark time when war ravaged the surrounding lands. Their leaders had built the wall, and it had kept them safe, even though many towns and villages around them had been destroyed. That was a long time ago. Now, there was peace around. The people of Tish still remembered though. It made them proud, and grateful.
That was until the day the bear came.
It was a gigantic monster of a bear. Bigger than anything the villagers had ever seen before, and fiercely ferocious! It had built its lair right in front of the gate and it would viciously attack anything, or anyone, that tried to get in or out of the village.
The villagers were trapped, stranded with no way out.
Desperate to regain their freedom, they tried everything they could think of. They tried sneaking past the bear, when it was resting or distracted. They tried attacking the bear, from different angles, using different methods. Nothing worked. Each time more villagers were wounded or killed. The bear was just too strong and too violent.
None of them knew why the bear picked their gate as its lair. Some thought it must be a monster-bear, driven by an unholy lust for human blood. Some wondered if it was a kind of judgement, a creature sent to punish them for a terrible sin. Others theorised it could be a mother bear, ferociously trying to protect cubs she had given birth to just outside the gate.
Whatever the reason, the result was the same. The villagers were trapped. Stranded in their formerly beloved village. Slowly dying of hunger and thirst.
However, it was not the bear that kept them trapped there. It was the wall.
Well, that was a nice story. And really, this story is all we have today.
However, Nat King Cole sang a lovely song, in which he said,
“Poets often use many words to say a simple thing… ,
…so to ensure that you know what I’m saying, I’ll translate as I go along”.
I think it might be helpful for me to follow his example here.
Because the story of “the Bear and the Gate” is a common story. One that we all experience many times over the course of our lives.
But some of us may be thinking, “I’ve never experienced that. I mean I’ve never heard of any village called Tish, and I’m sure I’d remember seeing a giant bear!”
You make a good point. So, please ‘bear’ with me, as I tell exactly the same story again.
Trish loved her job.
She always had interesting projects which were both challenging and satisfying to solve. She worked with friendly, interesting people, which made her always look forward to getting to the office. The salary wasn’t the greatest, but it was quite good. She couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
Trish had originally joined the company right after college. Very soon after she joined the company, a big recession had hit the economy. All over the country, thousands of people were losing their jobs. The leaders of Trish’s company fought hard to protect their people. Making big adjustments and changes to reduce costs, just so they could keep their staff. The people at the top even took large pay cuts, all so that their staff could continue to receive that salary that they relied on every month.
That all happened a while ago. The company’s leadership had changed a couple of times since. Still many aspects of that positive culture remained. Trish was proud and grateful to work there.
That was until the day the new team manager came.
The first thing he did was to ban chatting at the water cooler. “Socialising should not be done on company time” . Then came a raft of new changes. Deadlines became shorter, workloads became higher. Trish and her colleagues no longer had time to come up with creative solutions to problems. They just had to deliver the bare minimum and quickly move on to the next project so they didn’t fall behind schedule. The office environment quickly began to change. From a joyful, exciting one to a stressful, depressing one.
Trish and her colleagues began to feel trapped. Stranded in this depressing team, with no way out.
Desperate to improve the situation, they tried everything they could think of. They tried explaining to him the impact his policies were having. To explain that, as a creative team, they produced higher quality material when given more leeway. They tried explaining to the company leaders what a damaging impact this management style was having on morale. Nothing improved, things simply continued to get worse.
No one knew why the manager seemed intent on making everyone in the team miserable. Some thought maybe he was just a wicked person, who enjoyed using his little power to torment people around him. Some thought perhaps the company leaders were upset with their department and had sent him as punishment for previous failures. Some thought maybe he came from a foreign culture, where work attitudes were much more militaristic.
Whatever the case, the results were the same. Trish was trapped in the job she used to love. Slowly being drained of any passion or joy, in her work and even in her life.
However, it was not the new manager that had her trapped.
It was the fact that she couldn’t imagine working anywhere else..
Okay, let me tell it again, just one more time.
Tesh loved the life he had built.
He lived in a nice house, in an upmarket neighbourhood. He had a great family, a wonderful wife, and a beautiful child. He loved them with all his heart. He took his responsibilities very seriously. He was proud to be a strong, capable man, a man who never asked for help from anyone.
This was a bigger deal than most people who knew him these days realised. Tesh grew up in a very bad part of town. A neighbourhood overrun with gangs and crime. Most young men growing up in that neighbourhood had to join those same gangs if they wanted protection. Protection from the regular attacks, beatings and muggings that were simply a part of life growing up there.
Eventually though, joining a gang always drew a high price. Most of the boys Tesh had grown up with were now either in prison or dead. Tesh had chosen a different path. No matter how bad things became, he never went asking for “help” or “protection”. He put his head down, worked hard and endured the attacks, the beatings, the regular thefts of anything he had that was valuable.
In the end, it had paid off! He’d got out of the neighbourhood. He had a good job. His daughter was having a much better, a much safer childhood than he ever had.
Then the accident happened!
It had all happened so fast! He was normally a very good driver. And he had only been distracted for a second. Now his wife would have to learn to live the rest of her life from a wheelchair.
He did everything he could to make it right. To take care of her and support her disability. To fill the gap in their home, and in their daughters life, that the injury had created.
There was just so much to do! No matter how hard he tried, there was always something he had forgotten, …or missed, …or done wrong.
He felt overwhelmed, unable to cope, like he was drowning under a thousand consequences of his mistake.
So he did what he always did when things got difficult, he put his head down, worked harder and endured more. He read more books, practiced more skills, doing everything he could think of to make things good again.
Still he woke up each day even more exhausted, even more frustrated, even more angry, …at himself and at the world.
Perhaps he just needed to work harder, learn more, do better. To find a way to bring the joy and laughter back to his family. Perhaps this was his punishment, for his carelessness in causing such a violent car crash. Perhaps this was just his fate. What made him think he could do better than all the other people he grew up with? What made him think he deserved better?
Whatever the case, he couldn’t go on like this. He felt trapped, sinking with no place to go.
But it was not the accident that trapped him, it was not his wife’s injury, or the amount of work, or all the things he didn’t understand.
It was the fact that he was a man who never asked for help from anyone.
Do you know the good thing about walls?
No matter how solid they are, or how thick they are.
If you want to conquer a wall, all you need is a ladder.
Today I’m excited to introduce two new additions to the worldchanger magic team 😀 (especially because, before they joined, it was less a “team” and more a “person” 😋). Vi, our assistant-writer; she helps me flesh out experimental ideas into full stories and articles. And Tam, our editing-intern. She helps me look like I actually know how to spell, adds flair and style (like all the nice pictures on the stories).
With their help, I’ve been able to start producing articles much more consistently, which should allow us maintain a more regular posting schedule too (and perhaps even some social media as well. 😀).
Say “Hi” to them as you pass through. I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks.