THE LEAKY BUCKET
In the very olden times, there was once a great king. This king had many, many servants to take care of every task. One particular servant was responsible for bringing water from the well to the King’s table. However, it was a long journey from the castle to the well from which fresh, clean and pure water could be obtained. As this was the time before cars and other convenient machines, the servant carried two buckets – one attached to each end of a long stick – to transport water back to the castle. One of the buckets was new – it shone in the sunlight and it was perfect in every way. The other bucket was older and it had a small hole on one side that caused water to leak from it onto the ground, along the road back to the castle.
Thus, whenever the servant arrived back to the castle, although he had filled 2 buckets of water, he had only 1 and a half to present to the king. This caused the leaky bucket great distress. Twice a day when the servant picked up the buckets to go to the well, the older one would look longingly at the new one, “Oh, why can’t I be as shiny and flawless as the other?” the bucket would bemoan. The leaky bucket would cast envious looks at the new bucket as not a single drop fell from its new, glistening metal.
The leaky bucket tried every possible way of shifting its weight, of rotating its sides to minimize the leakage, but all to no avail. It could retain no more than half a bucket of water through the long walk back to the castle.
One day, the leaking bucket was distraught and cried out to the servant, “Why don’t you just throw me away? I’m of no use to you. I can do barely half the work of your new bucket. You have to walk such a long way back and forth to the well and I leak out half of the water you fill me with. The king is such a good, noble, divine king. I want to serve him as well as your new bucket. But I can’t; I can’t even give him a full bucket of water.”
The servant was very wise (sometimes wisdom lies hidden in places where we don’t expect it). He said to the bucket, “Look down. Look below you on the path to the castle, the path upon which you leak your water.” The bucket at first was too ashamed to look and see drops of precious water scattered on the ground. When it finally looked, however, it noticed a thick row of beautiful flowers – so many lush, blossoming varieties – lining the path with vibrancy and beauty.
“Every day I pick these flowers to decorate the king’s table and his room,” the servant said. “When I noticed that you were leaking, I planted seeds all along the path on your side of the road. Then, twice a day you come and water them. Now, they have grown and blossomed into the king’s favorite centerpiece. He says their fragrance calms his mind and brings peace to his heart. So, see, you are not useless at all. Rather, you are serving two purposes – both to bring water and also to bring beautiful flowers to the king’s castle.
So many times in life we condemn ourselves for our failures, we compare ourselves unfavorably to others, we grieve over our own shortcomings, wishing that we could be different, more like someone else or some pre-conceived ideal. And as we do this, we blind ourselves to our real assets, to the flowers we are watering each day, to the real gifts we can give to the king.
God has given everyone a unique, special set of gifts and it is up to us to make the most of these. Some of us will be able to carry water without spilling a drop. Our gift to the world will be a full bucket of water. Others of us will be able to give only half a bucket of water, but we will line the world’s paths with beautiful flowers and sweet fragrance. Let us never underestimate our potential or the significance of our own gifts. Let none of us ever feel just like a “leaky bucket.”