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A Story of decision making issues

I’m going to break away from the usual blog post format here and communicate the point I want to through a story. Hopefully you can enjoy the story while also learning deeper principles. 

Milo walked down the road to the market where he traded eggs from his family’s farm for other necessities that they were not able to produce. He loved the market! It was about as much excitement as he ever got in his peaceful life! He lived in an age where kings and mighty warriors had fought fiercely for the freedom of his kingdom. There was darkness out there. He knew it, but it was too far away from his own world to ever worry him or anyone else in the village or the entire kingdom for that matter. Milo appreciated the peace. He loved working on the farm with his family, but something inside him itched for adventure. There were other boys his age who learned and practiced sport. It sounded exciting, but felt meaningless. He wanted to make a difference. 

After he finished at the market he started for home. Usually he would have other provisions for his family but today he was only delivering eggs to someone who had traded them a pig so they would need to give them eggs for a while to make up the difference. As he walked, his yearn for adventure awakened and he decided that he would take a longer route home through the woods instead of along the road. There were trails through the woods and Milo loved exploring them. He knew where each of them led, and it was still more interesting than walking along a dull and dusty road. 

He had been on the trail for a little while when he stopped at the creek to dip his feet in and watch the fish swim. Then he heard a sound coming from the direction he had came from. Someone was coming up the trail. It was a horse but something didn’t sound quite right. He sat still and felt at ease. He was already out of the way so anyone riding a horse could walk past him, but it was strange for someone to be riding a horse out here and not on the main road. 

Suddenly, the horse appeared around the corner and it immediately captivated Milo. He had never seen a horse that looked like this one! It had a wild look in its eyes and was fully armored. He had heard stories of armored horses used in war but had never seen one. His captivation of the horse only lasted a moment though as his attention was pulled to something being drug behind the horse. It was a man! He was dressed in full armor and seemed to be dead. The horse saw Milo but paid no attention to him. Instead it came right up beside him and started drinking out of the stream like it hadn’t had water in days. 

Milo didn’t know what to do. He figured he should free the body off the horse and find someone to bury it but he didn’t dare touch the horse! But as he sat there staring, he noticed that the man moved. He wasn’t dead but injured. This sparked immediate action and Milo got up and forgot all his fear of the horse. He went to the man and tried speaking to him. The man didn’t respond so he pulled out his dull blade he carried around on the farm and started cutting the rope that kept the man tied to the horse. Once he freed the man he thought he ought to try to give him a drink. The horse had finally had its fill and seemed to be at ease munching on grass so Milo carefully drug the man closer to the stream and rolled him into a prone position then cupped his own hands and drew water. The man wasn’t able to talk, but he was able to drink. He drank a good amount and then breathed in deeply. They both sat in silence for several minutes. To Milo, it seemed like hours. He finally spoke up and said out loud, “I had better go get help”. He was standing up when he was jolted with a surprise. The man had grabbed his ankle! For the first time, Milo noticed that there was a piece of a broken arrow sticking out from under his arm. The man spoke. He simply said, “my pouch!” and reached for the bag on the side of the horse. Milo cautiously approached the horse but the horse seemed to be at ease so he took the pouch from its hook on the saddle. The man opened it and gave Milo what appeared to be a sealed letter. He said, “take this to the king! Don’t give it to anyone else! Don’t let anyone get it!” Milo started to say he would go get help but the man protested. “Take it and go!” he said. Milo agreed.
Milo set off running. He disobeyed. He didn’t know who this man was, or what the letter was. It was obviously important, but the man would die if Milo didn’t get help. So, he ran to the only person he knew would know what to do. His mother. Milo was, at this point in his life, old enough to marry and set out on his own. He stayed at home to help his family because although times were good, his father had gotten sick and died and he wanted to be able to help. There were many good women in his village, but none seemed to be the right one for him and he was unsure about being able to provide for a wife, and his family at home.
He wasted no time telling his mother the details of the story. He told her that a man on the trail was almost dead and needed help. His mother took this seriously, asked where he was and gathered some herbs to go help the man. Milo briefly tried to tell his mother about the message to the king but his mother was pretty intent on going to nurse the man back to life. She simply said, “It can wait Milo!” as she went out the door. 

And so, there he was sitting at home feeling torn between the dying wish of this mystery man which seemed really important, and his mother’s advice to wait. He hated feeling torn between two things that both seemed important and made sense! Yet something inside of him said GO! So he gathered some supplies and set off. He stopped on the edge of the village at the pub to ask for directions to the king’s castle. He had grown up his entire life hearing about it, and knew the general direction, but he had never actually been there and didn’t know exactly how to get there. Of course, there were plenty of men who were willing to give him advice. One man told him a set of simple instructions following the road. Another man said that if he needed to get there more quickly by foot, then there was a better way through the woods. It was a short cut. The man gave him instructions which were somewhat difficult to understand but Milo was a good woodsman and felt more comfortable in the woods than on the open roads. Someone else chimed in and told him not to waste his time in the woods. It was all so confusing. Everyone seemed to have what they thought was the best answer and they were all a little bit different. Then the questions came. What is your errand? Why do you need to see the king? What is a scrappy farm boy like you doing looking for the king’s castle? Milo wasn’t sure how to respond. He had nothing to hide, but the man who gave him the letter was insistent that he not give the letter to anyone else. So he decided it wouldn’t hurt to tell them a little bit of his errand. He said that a soldier asked him to deliver a message to the king and give it to nobody else. Of course the curious people in the pub wanted to see the letter. He held it out but retracted his hand quickly when one of the men reached for it. He didn’t know why he had been chosen, but he was told not to give it to anyone, no matter what. Then the man said that he’d waste his time on a journey like that. There is a carrier that comes and goes from the kingdom every week. He would be coming in just a few days. If he waited, it would get to the king faster because the carrier was trusted and rode by horse instead of on foot. Milo considered this advice. It made sense really. The carrier was obviously trusted by the king to have such a position, and he knew the way and rode a horse. The man was pretty insistent that Milo take his advice. “I don’t know what is in that letter” he said, “but it must be pretty important if it is to the king. That is the official seal of the king and it is sealed in red wax, which means it is of high importance. I know you were given the letter but there was nobody else around when he gave it to you. He must have known that he was going to die soon. I don’t mean any offense boy, but if this is important, I want to help and that seems like the best thing to do.”

The silence of the normally noisy setting was louder than anything he had ever heard. It cut through him and he knew they were all watching him to see what he would do. 


“I’m sorry, but I made a promise. I told him I would deliver it.” Then Milo had an idea. “Why don’t you help me? Come with me and show me the way?”. The man who had some passion in his voice only a few moments ago now seemed dull and hesitant. “I’ve got things to do here. I’m a busy man and I can’t help you.” He looked around the room to see if anyone would be willing to go with him. He looked for friendly support. But they only stared at him. A few even looked away and avoided eye contact. Milo realized that in order to keep his word, he’d have to go alone. 

So he set off. He decided to take the road in case he saw the carrier. Maybe the carrier would pick him up on his horse and deliver Milo to the king! That would save time and he could still deliver on his promise. So he set off walking. It didn’t take long before there was a fork in the road. He had already forgotten which way the man said to go. How was he ever going to make it to the king if he couldn’t even remember the first set of directions! It seemed like all the advice he was given was swimming around in his head. Maybe he should wait for someone to come by? Or maybe he should pick the road that seemed to have more traffic and go that way. But it was getting dark, and he knew nobody would be traveling that way. In all the excitement, he hadn’t even planned for shelter. If he were in the woods, he could make a shelter and start a fire and feel safe. Out here in the open plain, he felt exposed and weak. He felt helpless and stupid. Why had he agreed to this? He wondered if he should have just taken the advice to wait for the carrier. In the sting of his failure, he decided to return home and think about it more.
It was late and dark and Milo was tired and feeling down. Who did he think he was to take a message to the king? He was just a farm boy with nothing of value to offer. He couldn’t even get past the first fork in the road! Stupid! “I’m just a stupid boy” he mumbled out loud as he stumbled on a rock in the dark. Finally, he made it back to the pub which was still open and lively. He didn’t really want to stop there, but he needed a rest and was tired and cold. He would rest there for a while before returning home. 

He quickly realized his mistake when he walked in the door. He expected to see new customers in the pub, but several of the same men, including the one who insisted that he wait for the carrier were still inside. Luckily, they didn’t mock him. But he knew they could sense his failure. Finally the man who had made the suggestion of waiting spoke to him. “It’s OK lad. Sometimes we all fail. You’ve learned your lesson and you might listen to me next time.” While this started out comforting, Milo realized that the man was well meaning, but that he didn’t understand. Milo knew he wouldn’t understand so he politely nodded his head and turned around. He skulked into the back of the room where there were fewer people and sat down at a table by himself.

After a few minutes he saw a man a few tables away get up to leave. Except, Milo realized when it was too late that the man was not leaving. He was walking right up to Milo! He was old, and had a long beard. He wore simple gray clothing that seemed to be more patches than original cloth. He kindly brought Milo a drink and sat down across from him. Milo waited for the sting of some other opinion. But the man was silent for a long time. Finally, Milo asked him who he was.
The old gentleman smiled and showed a pair of very kind eyes. He said his name was Seileen. Milo had never heard of him. “I live in another village far away from here. I was born in another kingdom and my mother brought me here for refuge as a boy.” After a few more moments of silence, Seileen spoke to him again. “I take it that you are trying to reach the king?” He said with a raised eyebrow. "Yes", mumbled Milo without meeting the old man’s eyes. "I’ve taken that journey many times. There are several ways to get there". “I think I’m done with that journey,” said Milo. “I had better just wait for someone smarter and more experienced than me to take it. The old man laughed and Milo looked up in surprise. He was not prepared to hear what came next. “You know, that the man who gave you that letter didn’t just pick you at random because you happened to be there. He was looking for you and he knew you’d be on that trail. He had been pursued by the enemy and he needed to find someone he could trust to finish his quest. The kings enemies knew him too well and he knew that at some point, they would catch up with him and kill him. It seems that he found you just in time.” Milo began to protest. “But there was nobody else there! There were no enemies!” There is peace in the kingdom and the king doesn’t even have enemies right now!”. “Hush!” said the old man. “There are enemies, and some may be here so you might want to speak more quietly.” Milo was feeling very confused. This mysterious old man seemed to know things that he shouldn’t have known. He hadn’t told him about the man who gave him the letter, but he seemed to know all about it. And more unsettling, he seemed to know about Milo himself. Seileen’s face became a little more grave and he leaned in. “I am an agent of the king. I was sent here specifically to watch out for the kings enemies in this place. I’ve seen you around. I have watched you and I know that you are capable of this task. The enemies may know me if I try to take the letter. They certainly knew the warrior that gave it to you. So, I told him where to find you. I saw you go into those woods today. The enemies of the king must be close if they caught up with him before he found you. You were wise to decline to wait for the help of the carrier. He will certainly be followed. This is why it is important that you, and only you complete this mission. Don’t worry about specific directions right now. The king’s castle is north and east of here. Go in that direction. If you veer too far east then you’ll be met with large cliffs. Follow them and they lead right to the castle. If you veer too far north then you will find the seashore. You must leave soon. It’s only a matter of time before the enemies of the king find out that you have the message.”

Milo was dumbfounded, but energized at the same time. Unfortunately, he was simple minded and so overwhelmed by the day that he asked a dumb question. “Should I take the road or the woods?” Seileen grinned and said, “What matters is that you take the path that you enjoy enough to keep going! You turned around at the first failure on the road. Don’t worry about what other people think you should do! They aren’t the ones taking this journey. It’s easy for them to make demands of you while they sit in a pub with nothing better to do. Take the path that you feel will best suit your strengths!”

This was what Milo needed to hear. He set off for the woods immediately. He knew that he would have difficulties along the way. He knew the woods would not be the easiest or fastest way to get to the kingdom, but he knew how to handle the woods. He knew how to survive in the woods. He trusted the trees and the animals more than people. Especially if there were enemies after him. He didn’t know all the dangers that were out there, but he would face them. And if he died on his quest, he would die making his best effort to finish his quest.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work. If you made it this far, I’m impressed! This isn’t where the story ends, but it’s where I’m going to leave you to ponder.