You have heard the story about the “man on the wall.” A traveler down the road reaches the city where a sage sits at its gate. The traveler is thinking of moving to this city, but wants to know more about it. He asks the sage, “What kind of people do you have in this town?” The sage responds, “Well, what kind of people do you have in the town from which you come?” The traveler retorts, “Oh, they are snobbish, selfish, cruel, hateful, and unkind.” The sage says, “You will find the same in this city.” Before long, another traveler reaches the city gate and has the same interest as the first man. He asks the sage, “What kind of people do you have in this town?” Again, the sage replies, “Well, what kind of people do you have in the town from which you come?” The traveler thinks, then quips, “Oh, they are helpful, kind, charitable, and pleasant!” The sage says, “You will find the same in this city.”
Another well-traveled story is that of the man, his son, and their donkey. They are making a long journey, and begin with both of them on the back of this beast of burden. They reach the first city, and people say, “Such cruel people to weigh down that animal so!” Struck by those words, they decided to make a change. The father climbed down and walked alongside the donkey, which carried his son. At the next town, the citizens loudly denounced the situation: “How could that healthy young man so mistreat his father and relegate him to walking?” Embarrassed, the son and father switched places. At the next town, critics chided this arrangement, too. “What an abusive father, to force his son to walk while he rides in luxury?” Flabbergasted, the two concocted their solution. Both walked, guiding the donkey as they went. The townspeople they next encountered laughed them to scorn, saying, “What foolish men, to have such an animal and not make use of him!”
The common thread in these two stories is attitude. One illustrates the attitude we have in life while the other should brace us to handle the attitudes of others. One encourages having a proper outlook, while the other encourages us to properly handle the “in-look” of others. While the moral of the second is that we will never please everyone, the moral of the first is that we are in charge of our own happiness and joy.
Attitude may seem like such a minor thing, but it is the fulcrum of either success or failure, happiness or unhappiness. Ultimately, nobody else can make you one or the other. You are in charge of that! “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart” (Ps. 32:11). Paul said it best: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11b). Choose the route of optimism and hope. As those in Christ, how could we find ourselves anywhere else?