In a bustling village, somewhere and sometime, there was a town square surrounded by trees where the collectors gathered. These were people who made a living collecting things other people had discarded. The collectors discovered that once you had enough of various discarded items, they became valuable again. The people of the village had the notion that if something was for sale, it must be worth buying. However strange this may seem, it was what the people thought, and this notion served the collectors well.
One collector had a splendid supply of glass bottles. He attracted attention to them by hanging some from tree and clinging them with sticks to make music. Another collector had a cartload of odd-sized shoes. She often commented how odd in size and shape people's feet were, so sooner or later her odd assortment of shoes would be distributed to the appropriate feet.
There were pot and pan collectors, stamp and book collectors, golf club and hat collectors, and comic book and sports card collector. All in all, it was quite a collection of collectors.
One day an old man came wandering into the village asking where the collector's plaza was located. He carried a large pack, but didn't seem to be burdened by its weight. Eventually, he found the square where the collectors collected, and he established himself off in one corner.
Naturally, the collectors discovered there was a new collector in town, and they eagerly inquired about what he had in the pack. He simply told them there was nothing in it but his lunch and a raincoat in case it rained. "You mean, you don't have a collection of some kind?" they asked. "Aren't you a collector?"
"Oh, yes," he said, "I'm very much a collector. But what I collect does not fit in a pack or a box. I collect people's care."
This was a strange idea to the people who heard this, so they asked him to explain. "Well, you see, I discovered long ago that one of the things everybody has too many of and constantly tries to get rid of, are cares, trials, burdens, sorrows, difficult times - all kind of things that weigh them down and make their lives sad. So I offer to collect these cares from the people and they feel better. Isn't that simple?"
Some of the regular collectors who heard this thought it was a silly belief and possibly one that was dangerous to their honored profession. They even considered reporting him to collector inspector.
The old man didn't seem to harm anyone, though, so they left him alone. Soon enough, someone asked him how he collected cares, and he replied, "Well, there is probably something in your life that bothers you right now - some care that you have. Just tell me about it and I will add it and I will add it to my collection."
"But how will that help me?" the inquirer asked. "Can you make the problem go away just because I tell you about it?"
"No," the care-collector replied, "but you will fell better about it. Try it."
So the person told the old man about something that was a problem. When the story was finished, the care-collector nodded his head deeply a few times, and then put his hand together as if to scoop up something heavy. He pretended to put it into his pack. "There, I have put it away. How do you feel?" he asked.
The person who had the care collected said, "Why, I do feel better. I think I can handle the problem much better now. It really works!"
Word spread, Soon there was a throng of people who came to give their cares to the care-collector. His spot eventually became the most popular one in the square.
One day a woman came into the village walking very slowly and with considerable difficulty. She seemed so burdened that the villagers took her straight to the care-collector. When he explained to her what kind of collector he was, she began to wail, "Oh, you don't know how many cares and burdens and wound there are in this world. I have just come from a city where there are more hurt and cares than anywhere else. Everyone suffers and no one has any hope left. The worst part is that the rulers of the city thrive and prosper on the cares of the common people. It is a horrible, desperate place. I just had to leave. It was the only hope I had left," she concluded.
The care-collector looked very solemn, He stood up and lifted his pack in a gesture that was slower and more painful than anyone had ever seen before. After a long silence, he spoke slowly. "I must go there."
The villagers and the woman put up a great protest. They didn't want to lose their care-collector. They were afraid that this city might be too much for him. They begged him to stay.
The old man slipped away in the middle of the night, because he didn't want his departure to be a burden and a sorrow for the people he had helped.
It was not long thereafter when a weary and burdened young man came into the village. The people knew without asking that he'd come from the city. They helped him as best they could, and when he was feeling better, they asked him if he knew about the old man who had left for the city several weeks ago.
"Know him!" the youth replied. "Why the whole city has been talking about him. Haven't you heard?"
"Why, no," the people chorused back, "Tell us what happened."
"This old man came quietly into the city and nobody noticed him, at first," the youth recounted. "Then once in a while you could see him talking to people - mostly listening, really. When a person finished talking to him, he bowed his head and did a funny thing with his hands and the person began to feel better."
"For the first time in a long while," the young man continued, "people in the city began to feel better and have a bit of hope for their own lives."
"Yes, we no. He did that here, too," replied the villagers.
"Well, it didn't take long for the authorities to notice him. They told him to leave and to stop meddling in other people's lives. He simply refused," said the youth from the city.
The young man's eyes became very sad and he sobbed softly in his throat. He continued, "They put him in jail, at first, but even there he collected the cares of the other prisoners. Finally, the rulers decided that he was a subversive threat to their system of order and control. So they had him excuted."
The villagers gasped. Some began to cry.
"I am so sorry to bring you this sad news about your friend," said the youth. "He was my friend also. He really, genuinely cared about me."
The youth went on. "I feel better for telling you, painful as it is for us all. You know, it is like what he did before he died, his listening and collecting cares." His voiced trailed off as an idea began to lighten his burden.
"It still works!" he exclaimed. "Collecting cares still works! You can do it for me, and I can do it for you. He only showed us how!"
The young man jumped up, filled with new energy and strength. "I'm going back to the city!"
But what will you do there?" asked several villagers in unison. "You'll get hurt again. There are too many cares and burdens in that city."
"Exactly! Exactly!" he continued. "That's why I'm going. I will become a care-collector!"
- Author Unknown -