The Woman and the Wagon (A Parable)

Feb 4, 2020 | Parables on Learning

There was a woman who lived alone on a farm with her three children. They had fallen on hard times due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, and the woman had decided to pursue a better life in the city. There, she and the children could live comfortably with her sister.

The woman loaded the children and their few possessions into a wagon and began the day-long journey to her sister’s home in the city. Along the way, around midday, the wagon became stuck when one of the back wheels sunk into a large hole. Unable to free the wheel from the hole, and not knowing what else to do, the woman unhitched their horse and took the children to rest beneath the share of a nearby tree.

After some time had passed, a young scholar came along. Seeing the woman’s predicament, he gave her a book from the bag he was carrying. “This book,” he said, “Will give you all the information you need to repair your wagon and get on your way.” The woman opened the book but could not make any sense of the picture sand formulas she saw written there. “I thank you for the gift,” she said, “But I’m afraid I lack the education to understand this book.” The scholar gave her an exasperated look and pulled another book from his bag. “In that case, you need to study this book first. It should only take you a week or so to master the concepts, and then you’ll be able to understand the first book I gave you.” The woman thanked the man and he went along his way.

Later, a councilman from a nearby village passed by. He was riding in a nice carriage and asked his driver to stop when he saw the wagon on the road. He got out, examined the wagon, and then walked over to the tree where the woman and her children were resting in the shade. “Woman,” he said, “Do you realize your wagon is blocking the road? There are important people like me who have important business to attend to and we must not be delayed or detoured by such things. You’ll need to move your wagon or I’ll be forced levy a fine.” When the woman explained that the wagon was stuck and she could find no way to move it, the man said, “That is not my problem. Important business could be at risk if your wagon continues to block the road. You have until sundown to move your wagon or I will be forced to take action.” The woman said she understood and the man returned to his carriage and continued on his way.

A while later, an old woman came down the road. Her shoulders were stooped and she walked with a slight limp. When she reached the wagon, she stopped and studied the wheel stuck in the hole. When she had finished, the old woman yelled toward the woman and her children. “It looks like all you need is a little help. Why don’t you fetch your horse and bring him over?

The woman did as the older woman suggested and soon had the horse hitched back up to the wagon. “Should be able to do this with a bit fo teamwork,” the old woman said. “You’ve got a stronger back than I do, so you push the back of the wagon while I guide the horse.”

The young woman went to the back of the wagon and began to push, while the old woman pulled on the horse’s reins, encouraging to pull hard. The wagon began to rock back and forth with the effort and, after a few tries, the wheel finally pulled loose from the hole.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” the woman said.

“No need,” the old woman said. “You would have done it yourself eventually. Just easier with another person helping.”

With that, the old woman continued on her way and the woman loaded the children back into the wagon and continued her journey toward their new life.

The Lesson

Real help is defined by what a person truly needs as opposed to what the helper prefers to offer.

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