On this, the last day of the first month of a new decade, I wanted to relate a story that came to me somewhere between sleep and consciousness. Before I begin, though, I must do the not-so-fine-print disclaimer thing: A) The names, nationalities, and nations are omitted because they are unimportant to the story. B) The creeds, colours, political and/or sexual affiliations are omitted because they are irrelevant to the point. There, I think that about covers it.
A captain stood upon the deck of a large ship. Normally, it would have been stacked high with cargo but today it was packed with people. He stood looking over the sea of humanity--refugees from cruel circumstances, hopeless situations, and unpleasant surroundings. Everyone was up on deck to breathe the air and feel the sun-warmed breeze upon their faces. The ship was nearing its destination and all eyes were looking to the horizon where a ribbon of land seemed to be floating upon the water.
At length a couple began making their way toward the captain tenuously. As he watched them he called to mind how these people had made every effort to make the other passengers comfortable, soothe their fears and sharing what little they had. He smiled and tipped his hat in greeting as he looked at them--their faces a mixture of anxiety and rapture.
"Good morning!" said the captain with music in his voice.
"Good morning!' came the equally melodic reply.
"Well, we're nearly there. Soon you will be in a new land where you can begin a new life without fear. You can put the past behind you and look to your futures."
The couple looked at one another and then back at the captain. "Please, sir, could you tell us...do you think... will we be truly happy here?"
The captain knew that all their hopes or fears hung on the words he would speak next. "Yes. Yes, I do. You will find this a wonderful place where you can start fresh. People will be kind and generous to you. You will have many friends and neighbours who will make you feel at home and that you are family". The couple showered their thanks in a relieved outpouring of smiles and tears. They shook the captains hand heartily before rejoining the others.
A short time later another couple approached the captain. He did not smile and all semblance of mirth left his face. This couple had complained about the accommodations, the food, and the closeness. They took whatever was being shared but did not reciprocate from their own meager possessions. The captain eyed them warily.
"Yes?" he intoned dismissively.
"We want to know what we can expect once we are ashore. What will be done for us? We know it has to be a hundred times better than the treatment we've had to endure aboard your ship."
The captain assumed an apologetic tone. "I am sorry that you have had such an unpleasant time of it while you've been with us. We're not used to--or equipped for--passengers. However I'm afraid that you will find it a hundred times worse on shore. The people are unfriendly and will try to cheat you at every turn. Everything is overpriced and of inferior quality. It is a sad, dismal place."
They clicked their tongues, uttered curses and hurried off in a huff. The captain smiled broadly at their backs.
All the while these exchanges were happening the first mate had been standing near by. He was perplexed by the captain's responses. He decided to inquire.
"Sir.....I'm a bit confused. I heard your conversation with the two couples and......"
"And you are wondering how one place can be both a paradise and a prison, is that it?"
"The heart is a magnet and it will draw what it is composed of to itself. If it is kind and generous than that which is kind and generous will be drawn to it and be made twice as strong. If, on the other hand, it is mean and selfish than it will attract only that which will, in time, destroy it. The first couple will be welcomed and the other will be shunned. Both will have their expectations met because of what is in their hearts. If you expect to be happy and are willing to work for it, than you will be. If you expect to be miserable and do nothing to alter your course, misery will find you. People, matey, fail to understand the power they have over destiny--their own as well as others'. No matter what our stations or circumstances are in life , every one of us has the power to create paradises or prisons for ourselves. The magnet in our bosom is the compass we all sail by; but WE choose the course."
Most of the passengers lived happily ever after. The captains' compass stayed true to his chosen course all the days of his life until he reached his Final Anchorage.