When I was young, my mother would tell me this story when I felt uncomfortable, anxious or nervous.
There was once a young boy named Michael. Michael had a mother and a father, a sister and a brother, and a dog named “Spot.”
One day, little Michael went into the woods to sit by the edge of the river, when suddenly, a beautiful angel appeared through the pockets of sunlight shining through the trees.
She said to Michael, “Dear child, I see that you will face many hardships in this life. Would you like to avoid these challenges?”
Michael responded with a quick and resounding, “Yes!”
The angel produced a small box. Attached to this box was a thin string. The angel explained these simple instructions: “Every time you do not wish to do something, pull the string attached to this box, and an hour will go by.”
Michael thanked the angel and returned home with his new box. When he arrived, Michael realized that his mother was serving brussel sprouts for dinner, his least favorite vegetable!
He remembered the box given to him by the angel. He swiftly pulled it out of his pocket and without hesitation, pulled the string. Moments later, Michael was sitting in front of the television, full of food, without a hint of the taste of brussels sprouts in his mouth.
Satisfied with the results, he decided to use the box in future situations.
Thirty years passed and the young boy had grown into a man. He had a wife, three children and a dog who he loved dearly, but he felt a certain sense of dissatisfaction in his heart. One day, he ventured out to the same woods where Michael met the angel years before, and she was there.
He spoke to her about his nagging discontent. The angel gently reminded him of his choice to pull the string through the big and small events in his life. Many hours were left unexperienced and therefore, misunderstood.
Michael realized that he had missed out on so much. He made the most courageous choice of his life that day and threw the box in the river.
The story’s message is simple: even though challenging moments are presented to us in life, there is no way we can truly live, grow and evolve unless we go through our challenges instead of skipping over them.
Just like a tight muscle, we have to go directly into and through a sensation, not around it, if we expect physical release and transformation. Change is uncomfortable for a reason. Enduring financial hardship, suffering from injury or disease, losing the people we love and grappling with the fragility of our own life is inevitable. If we avoid going through the the challenging preparatory experiences at a young age, we will likely avoid adult challenges when we’re older. And in many ways, this is the same as pulling the string.
If we simply pull the string, we do not learn or discover the feelings that come from overcoming or accomplishing something. Hidden in every period of darkness is a glorious light that will come in time, with perseverance and patience.
As a child, I somewhat grasped the importance of this message. Like all children, I endured awkward and painfully embarrassing moments with my peers. At that time, pulling the string would have been a most welcomed option.
As an adult, I see how these childhood moments helped me build mental strength and character. I needed each experience to happen so I could endure the life changing challenges that lay ahead.
I am thankful to have this story and remembrance from my late mother. Her physical presence was taken from me too early, but through her guidance, and stories like these, I know how important it is to persevere and be courageous in the times that the Universe tests me.
So stay strong, Michaels of the world. Be brave, bold and unafraid.
Growth can be a beautiful thing if we accept it with grace.
The Burden of the Living.
Author: Megan Ridge Morris
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: various brennemans at Flickr
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