Paolo Coelho (world famous author of The Alchemist) recently shared this story on his blog last week.
As soon as he arrived in Marrakesh, Morocco, a missionary decided he would stroll through the desert at the city’s boundary every morning. On his first stroll he noticed a man lying on the sand, caressing the ground with his hands and leaning his ears towards the earth.
“He is mad,” the missionary said to himself. But he saw the man every morning during his walks and after a month, intrigued by that strange behaviour, he decided to approach the stranger.
He knelt beside him and asked, in broken Arabic, “What are you doing?”
“I keep the desert company and offer solace for its loneliness and its tears.”
“I didn’t know the desert was capable of crying.”
“It cries every day, because it dreams of being useful to mankind and turning into a huge garden where people could cultivate flowers and tend sheep.”
“Well then, tell the desert it accomplishes its mission very well,” said the missionary. “Every time I walk here, I am able to understand the true dimension of the human being, as its open space allows me to see how small we are before God. When I look at its sands, I imagine the millions of people in the world who were born equal and am reminded that life isn’t always fair towards everyone. Its mountains help me meditate and as I see the sun rising on the horizon, my soul fills with joy and I feel closer to God.”
The missionary left the man and went back to his daily chores. To his surprise, he found him the next morning at the same place, in the same position.
“Did you tell the desert everything I told you?” he asked.
The man nodded.
“And even so it keeps crying?”
“I can hear each of its sobs,” answered the man, his head tilted towards the ground. “Now it is crying because it spent thousands of years thinking it was completely useless and wasted all this time blaspheming God and its own destiny.”
“Well, then tell the desert that despite having a short lifespan, we human beings spend much of our days thinking we are useless. We rarely find the reason for our destiny and think God has been unfair to us. When a moment finally arrives in which we are shown the reason why we were born, we think it is too late to change and keep on suffering. And as the desert, we blame ourselves for the time we have wasted.”
“I am not sure the desert will bother to hear it,” said the man. “It is used to suffering and it can’t see things differently.”
“So then let us do what I always do when I feel people have lost faith. Let us pray.”