Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Charger

This week I fulfilled the 7th speech of 10 towards my Advanced Communicator Bronze certification at Toastmasters.  The speech topic I chose was Moral of the Story from the Storyteller's manual.  After a lot of thought (and I mean a lot - I went back and forth on this one for 8 months) and research into different moral tales, I decided to do a modern take on a particular Aesop's fable, one called "The Ass and the Charger".

The original goes as following:

The Ass and the Charger
An Ass congratulated a Horse on being so ungrudgingly and carefully provided for, while he himself had scarcely enough to eat, nor even that without hard work. But when war broke out, the heavy armed soldier mounted the Horse, and rushed into the very midst of the enemy, and the Horse, being wounded, fell dead on the battle-field. Then the Ass, seeing all these things, changed his mind, and commiserated the Horse, saying: "How much more fortunate am I than a charger. I can remain at home in safety while he is exposed to all the perils of war." 

Moral of Aesops Fable:  Be not hasty to envy the condition of others.

Here is my version; one that I decided to call The Charger in honour of the original fable.  The speech had to only be 4-6 minutes in length so I've had to leave some details with rather loose hanging threads, but it's one that I may adapt for a longer version later on.  After I finish writing my next speech (Wreckers), we will see.

Perceptions can be fallible.  It’s so easy to view someone in one light only to discover that what you viewed can be so wrong.  That your limited worldview can lead you down the wrong path, no matter how good a person you really are.

Toastmasters chairperson, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests, I wish to introduce to you a modernization of an ancient Aesop’s Fable, one that I call The Charger.

Jaden was only on his first day on the job when he noticed him.  Clean-cut with immaculate hair and teeth.  Smoldering blue eyes that seemed to suck the room right into them.  Trim and fit, wearing suits that look to have been cut by the finest tailors using custom thread.  Colin was the absolute picture of office perfection, the Charger leading the morale of the company onwards.  Without malicious intention, Jaden hated him.

It wasn’t because Jaden was a jerk, or even overtly ambitious for that matter.  It was just because he had been forced to work so hard every single day of both his educational and professional life to achieve even the basic amount of recognition he craved.  Born into a large immigrant family with very little money, he had always had to wear hand-me down clothes to school and endured the constant barrage of teasing from his peers as a result.  Though he felt bad for doing so, he had often felt himself thinking derogatory thoughts towards his parents for not providing at least a middle-class lifestyle.  He did his best to suppress those thoughts.  Sometimes he was successful.

Now Jaden knew that jealousy should have been beneath him.  But he had worked so hard to land even the simplest role in the company and couldn’t see how he could possibly equal Colin’s abilities.  So, he shadowed Colin as much as possible, hoping to learn some tricks.  It was easier said than done though.  While it looked like he was Mr. Approachable, Colin never seemed to be around when Jared was looking for him.  Even when Jared managed to “volunteer” himself onto one of the projects Colin was assigned to, he found the conversations they had a little stilted and generally confusing.

Then one day Colin was a no-show for one of their conferences.  When Jared inquired as to his whereabouts, the person he asked just shrugged.  “Don’t worry about it, he does this from time to time…he’ll be back.”

Three days went by, and still no Colin.  After missing an important presentation that Jared had piled all of his time into to make work, he finally convinced somebody from Human Resources to look into it.  After repeated phone calls to no avail, somebody finally got it into their mind to check at his residence.  It took an additional couple of hours to ask a building manager to look into the condo, and there they found Colin dead, seemingly by his own hand.

The funeral was a quiet, somber affair.  Only a couple people from work showed up.  It seems Colin had pushed the rest of them away.  As a matter of fact, that other than himself, there was only one other person in attendance; an elderly lady sitting in the corner, alone.  Small talk in the room seemed to be all about Colin’s looks or the way he dressed; but then as they realized they knew nothing else about the man, they slowly petered out.  Soon it was just Jaden and the lady in the room alone.  She seemed to realize that everything was slowly drawing to a close and slowly stood to make her way over to the casket.  There she stood with a hand on the wood with her head bowed in thought or prayer.

After a respectful amount of time had passed, Jaden slowly made his way over to her and quietly asked if she was a relative.  After a moment had passed, she slowly turned towards him and Jaden saw the same blue eyes that Colin used to great effect.  A little watery with age, but there was no mistaking that this was his mother.

Accurately reading the expression on his face, she responded in a quiet voice rife with a resigned sadness.  “Aye.  He was a good boy once.  Seemed so carefree.  But soon he got ideas in his head of wanting so much more than just what his da’ and I could provide for him.  But we had no money to send him to school, and he had such a terrible memory and suffered from chronic migraines all the time so there wasn’t much chance of a scholarship happening.  So, he moved far away from us and created a new him; spent every dime he could get his hands on to get himself by on papers, suits and smiles.  Wracked up a lot of debt to a lot of people he did.  I think it worked for a while, but I’m sure he knew it wasn’t right.  The last few months were particularly hard on him.  His da passed on six months past and I think not being around for that last while broke Colin.  He realized he missed his family but he was caught up in the lie.  He saw no way out.”  She paused.  “At least, no good way out.”

With those final words, she patted him on the arm and then slowly walked out of the room.  Watching her go, grief overwhelmed Jaden, not for this man that he realized he truly did not know at all, but for the family of his own who did everything they could for him.  He knew he would never leave them the way that Colin had left his.  He also knew he would be true to himself.

The moral of the tale is to not be hasty to envy the condition of others.

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