Saturday, 16 November 2013

White and black sheep

I came across the following story (and comment) in a recent book by Trystan Owain Hughes which was told him by an elderly vicar at his local church:

A North Wales shepherd is happily grazing his large flock of sheep, when an English tourist stops to admire them. "That's a wonderful flock you have,' he says. 'How much would you say your sheep walked each day?'

The shepherd answers, 'Which ones, the white ones or the black ones?'

The white ones,' replies the Englishman.

'Well the white ones walk around five miles each day,' says the shepherd.

'And the black ones?' asks the tourist.

'Yes the black ones too,' comes the answer.

'And how much grass would you say they eat daily?' says the Englishman.

'Which ones,' says the shepherd, 'the white or black?'

The white ones,' answers the tourist.

'Well, the white ones can eat about six pounds of grass each day,' asserts teh Welshman.

'And the black ones?' asks the tourist.

'Yes the black ones too,' comes the answer.

And so the tourist continues further. 'How much wool would you say they give each year?'

'Which ones, the white or the black?' retorts the shepherd.

'The white ones,' comes the response.

"Well," he explains, 'I'd say the white ones give some six pounds of wool annually.'

'And the black ones?' asks the Englishman.

'Yes, the black ones too,' comes the answer.

By now the passer-by is curious, so he says, 'I'm sorry, but can I ask why you divide your sheep into white ones and black ones every time you answer my questions?'

'Well' said the shepherd, 'you see that's only natural, because the white ones are actually my sheep.'

'Ah,' says the Englishman, 'and what about the black ones?'

And the shepherd answers, 'Yes, the black ones too.'

Trystan writes: "I can't recall exactly why the elderly vicar told me this tale! But I think it can teach us something about how easily we fall into the trap of relying on the labels that we foist on people around us. The way we see people defines how we act and how we treat each other. As the philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote: "The question is not what you look at, but what you see." In other words, we are constantly wearing spectacles through which we make judgements on people and which distort our attitudes towards them.

The book by Trystan id a good one for the season of Advent. It's called "Real God in the real world."

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