A telephone operator working at a local newspaper received a call one afternoon.
The woman on the other end said, "I have two advertisements to make in your local paper. One is a funeral announcement and the other is a 'car for sale' advertisement. Tell me, what are your rates for such material?"
"Then, it will cost $5.00 per word, Ma'am," came the response. "However, we do not charge you anything if the advertisement is 5 words or less."
"Hmmph," came the reply. After a moment of silence, the lady asked, "Good, do you have a paper and pencil handy?"
'The most precious thing in the world' is a folktale from Holland. The tale has inspired songs, plays, operas and films.
On the western coast of the Dutch province of Friesland, sits Stavoren. Now a popular holiday yacht haven and marina, visited by holidaymakers from many lands.
In the 14th and 15th century however, Stavoren was one of the great trading ports of Europe. A member of the Hanseatic League, its ships travelled the world and brought great prosperity to the merchants who lived there. But for the pride and arrogance of a very rich lady, who’s statue to this day gazes out over the harbour, Stavoren might still be welcoming the world’s great merchant ships and ocean going liners.
The lady in question was the widow of a successful merchant who had died, leaving her his fleet of trading vessels. In the years following her husband’s death she had vastly increased the wealth of the business until she had now become by far the richest in the city.
She enjoyed her status and her wealth. She was forever giving parties and banquets, inviting her rivals to view the many treasures that she had amassed. Human nature being as it is, they tried to copy her and match her possessions with treasures of their own. Sometimes they succeeded and this caused her some irritation.
One day she sent for her most experienced captain. “I have a special commission for you”, she said. “I want you to prepare your ship as quickly as you can. Set sail and bring me back, ‘The most precious thing in the world!’
“Yes madam”, replied the captain, “and what would that be?”
“If I knew that”, she said icily, “I would already have bought it! You are my most experienced captain, you must have many contacts throughout the world. I don’t care how much it costs, just find 'The most precious thing in the world' and bring it to me. You will be well rewarded for your search”
The captain left somewhat confused. However his employer was not one with whom he wished to argue.
The following day he began to prepare his ship for the long voyage ahead. News of the mission quickly spread, in the way that gossip does and by the time the ship was ready, a large crowd had gathered at the quayside to see it set sail. Much was the speculation as to what the captain would bring back.
“A religious icon!”, suggested one.
“A pearl as big as an egg!” suggested another.
“Perhaps a golden statue from Egypt!” thought someone else.
None of them of course had any idea as they watched the ship slip away.
The rich widow was delighted at the interest being displayed. She was sure that when her captain returned with ‘The most precious thing in the world’, that would surely establish her superiority in the town.
Time passed. The days turned into weeks The weeks became months and there was no sign of the captain’s return. A year went by and people had begun to forget about the quest. And then, fifteen months after the ship had sailed away, A cry went out that it had been sighted entering the harbour!
Once again a huge crowd gathered to welcome the ship’s return. The rich lady put on her finest dress to meet her captain when the ship docked.
“Madam" he said, "I have done as you requested. I visited many lands, met and spoke with many influential people. Many were the suggestions and much advice did I receive. But none of it convinced me and there were several times when I was on the point of giving up the search. Then suddenly I realised what it was! I immediately knew what was, ‘The most precious thing in the world!’"
“Yes, yes!” said the lady with some impatience. “And have you brought it?”
“I have madam, indeed I have!”
“Well, and what is it?”
“Wheat”, said the captain. “I have brought a cargo of wheat.”
“Wheat? You have brought me wheat?” She nearly choked with rage.
“Yes ma'am, what could be more precious than wheat? Without bread, half the world would starve!”
The lady heard one or two sniggers of laughter from the people in the crowd.
“And is this wheat all mine, to do with what I will?” she said quietly.
“Of course ma’am, I have brought it for you”.
“Then pour it into the sea!” she said.
“Pour it into the sea?” The captain couldn’t believe his ears. “But there is enough grain here to feed all the poor in the province. Why not give it to them – after all, you may be poor yourself one day!”
“I poor? How dare you!” She pulled a large diamond ring from her finger. “This ring will return to my hand before I am ever poor!” She turned and threw the ring far out into the harbour. “Now do as I ask” she continued, “Pour your wheat into the sea and then take yourself out of my sight!”
The captain himself was now angry, “Cast off!” he shouted to his crew and the crowd watched as the ship slowly moved away from the dock. The vessel sailed to the mouth of the harbour where the captain gave instructions to drop anchor and ordered his crew to shovel the grain overboard into the sea. Once done, the anchor was raised and the ship sailed away, never to return.
Two days later, the rich widow, keen to show that she was not at all put out by the set back, sent out invitations to all her wealthy rivals to attend a banquet at her palatial residence. The day of the banquet arrived and all were seated. A silver salver was placed before the rich lady and the cover removed to reveal a roasted sea bass. She picked up a knife to cut into the fish and as she sliced through the meat, the knife struck something solid. She cut the fish open, gasped and turned pale. There, laid in the flesh of the fish was her diamond ring. The one that she had hurled into the sea four days earlier!
Worse was to follow. After a few weeks, the wheat that had been tossed from the captain’s ship took root and began to grow on the sea bed, where it had fallen. Soon the sand, which had freely flowed back and forth with the water, began to clog and pile up among the growing stems of wheat. Within a year a sandbank had grown across the harbour mouth to such proportions that large ships were no longer able to enter the harbour. And so a once prosperous merchant shipping town went steadily into decline.
The rich merchants, now unable to trade went out of business, including of course, the rich lady who’s greed, pride and arrogance had caused the town’s ruin.
The sandbank that still lies across harbour entrance, is known appropriately as, 'Lady’s Sand'.
And the statue of ‘The Lady of Stavoren’ remains to remind people to be grateful for what they have and to remember how easy it is to lose everything.
Lady of Stavoren
Moral: We should think things through before we make hasty decisions. It is so easy to destroy something, but so hard to build. We should be grateful to God, for what He has provided us.
As an individual, and in my profession, I communicate a lot - both verbal and written. It is a continuous learning process, and am still learning how to communicate effectively. Sometimes when I write an email, an article, or a report, the person reading it may not comprehend it in the right sense how I originally intended it to be. This may even cause the reader to be both furious and mad!! In short, I need to grow up.
As a writer, my objective is to be in perfect communication with my reader. That means as a writer, I have to understand who the reader is, what the reader is thinking, why the reader is thinking what the reader is thinking, and what the reader will do to act on my message.
Also, my goal in the first place is to connect with my reader and and establish a relationship.
What I have learned so far, is to build up my message one sentence at a time; have clarity, be focused and ultimately, KIS*.
Here are some examples of how an idea can be lost in communication. First is the KIS format, and below is the format where the reader is fuming and pulling his/her own hair from the scalp.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Scintillate, Scintillate, asteroid exiguous.
Birds of a feather, flock together.
Members of an avian species of identical plumage congregate.
Think before you speak.
Surveillance should precede salutations.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Pulchritude poses possesses solely cutaneous profundity.
Don't cry over spilled milk.
It is fruitless to become lachrymose over precipitately departed lacteal fluid.
Cleanliness is next to godliness.
Freedom from incrustations of grime is contiguous to rectitude.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
The stylus is more potent then the claymore.
You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
It is fruitless to attempt to indoctrinate a superannuated canine with innovative maneuvers.
Spare the rod and spoil the child.
Eschew the implement of correction of vitiate the scion.
A watched pot doesn't boil.
The temperature of the aqueous content of an unremittingly ogled saucepan does not does reach 212 degree Fahrenheit.
All that glitters is not gold.
All articles that coruscate with resplendence are not truly auriferous.
Where there's smoke, there's fire.
Where there are visible vapors in ignited carbonaceous material, there is conflagration.
Now, do you see the need to KIS?
Further given enough time to think, by having a willingness and open mind to understand what we read, it is possible to fathom even the most cryptic writing.
Words are quite powerful objects, and hence to be used very carefully. Some words mean more than one thing.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The farm was used to produce the produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
This was a good time to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
The bandage was wound around the wound.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
To help with the planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing a tear in my clothes I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
The singer had to record the record.
Will you be able to live through a live concert?
Two gentlemen were one day crossing the river in a row boat. A dispute about faith and works arose, one saying that good works were of small importance and that faith was everything, the other asserting the contrary. Neither being able to convince the other, the ferryman asked permission to give his opinion.
Upon consent he said, "I hold in my hand two oars. That in my right hand, I call 'faith'; the other, in my left, 'works.' Now, gentlemen, please observe. I pull the oar of faith and pull that alone. See! the boat goes round and round, and the boat makes no progress. I do the same with the oar of works with precisely similar results - no advance. Mark! I pull both together. We go on apace, and in a very few minutes we shall be at our landing place. So, in my humble opinion neither faith without works nor works without faith will suffice. Let there be both, and the haven of eternal rest is sure to be reached."
O God, I trust You.
I don't understand
I cannot begin to comprehend
The wisdom of Your way
In my torn and tangled life
But I am steadfastly believing
That Your plan for me today
Must be --
Surely it must be
As Your plan for me
In joyful days now past.
You are the same
So, dear God
I trust You.
An old farmer who was about to die called his two sons to his bedside and said, "My boys, my farm and the fields are yours in equal shares. I leave you a little ready money but the bulk of my wealth is hidden somewhere in the ground, not more than eighteen inches from the surface. I regret that I've forgotten precisely where it lies."
When the old man was dead and buried his two sons set to work to dig up every inch of ground in order to find the buried treasure. They failed to find it but as they'd gone to all the trouble of turning over the soil they thought they might as well sow a crop, which they did, reaping a good harvest.
In autumn as soon as they had an opportunity they dug for the treasure again but with no better results. As their fields were turned over more thoroughly than any others in the neighborhood they reaped better harvests than anyone else. Year after year their search continued.
Only when they had grown much older and wiser did they realize what their father had meant. Real treasure comes as a result of hard work.
A speaker once held up a blank sheet of paper and asked, "What do you see?"
The reply was, "A piece of paper."
He then placed the paper on the podium, made a tiny dot in the center and held it up again and asked, "What do you see now?"
"A dot," was the unanimous reply from the audience.
"Imagine this blank paper is a person," the speaker said. "The small dot you saw is his/her biggest fault. The white surrounding the dot represents all of this person's worthwhile qualities which we so easily fail to see. Often a fault seems bigger than it really is and we allow it to overshadow the many positive aspects of that person's personality."