Many moons ago, at a time when I was young in body at least, the village had a very unique and honourable tradition which fell by the wayside. Many circumstances played a role in its downfall. The village became a community and the population grew to the extent where the tradition could not be honoured in the same way. Still, others kept up the tradition in smaller more confined groups which included close family members and sometimes Elders and the widowed. My thoughts in thinking of these times brought another parable to my memory.
A stranger carrying a large black pot and a bundle of belongings on his back came to a village in his travels. He was hungry and weary from travelling and his last morsel of bread had long been eaten in the early morning before he started his journey. It was now much later in the afternoon as he approached the first dwelling and knocked on the back door.
“Good day to you, Madam,” he said. “Would you have a small morsel of bread for a hungry traveler?”
“NO!” answered the lady (who was no lady at all). “I can’t spare anything for a beggar!”
Soon he realized as he approached all the houses, no one was willing to part with a morsel of food to feed a stranger.
He made his way to the centre of the village where, in a circular ditch, he built a fire and after securing the large black pot on a pole he hunted around for a nice round sizable stone to place in the pot. (The stone was washed clean first) He then filled the pot with water and waited for it to boil.
Every once in a while he stood up to stir the pot and look inquiring into it At last a curious villager came to see what the stranger was cooking.
“What are you cooking, stranger?” asked the villager.
“Stone soup,” answered the stranger and he stood up with a large spoon and tasted it “Hmm,” he said, “it needs a bit of flavour.”
The villager said, “I have some salt and herbs at home.”
“Can you spare them?” asked the stranger. “Sure can,” said the villager (who was very cool) and he ran home to get some. As they sat to wait for the soup to cook, another villager came by and asked what was cooking and the first villager answered, “We’re making stone soup.” The stranger stood up and tasted the soup again. “Hmm,” he said. “It’s still missing something.” And he gave a taste to the two villagers.
“I know,” said the second villager. “I have some vegetables at home I can spare,” and he went home to get them. Soon the stranger and the two villagers were greeted by a third villager, who contributed a chicken, and a fourth villager who added grains to the pot The crowd grew and the villagers brought food to share with the stranger. Everyone ate and enjoyed the stone soup remarking that it was the tastiest stone soup they ever ate.
Do we ever think to invite the stranger into our homes? Surely one of our own kind (another Cree or Aboriginal) you say. What about the stranger who lives in our village? Will he or she always remain a stranger? Do we close the door and say we have nothing to spare? Are these the teachings of our Elders? Did the honourable tradition of sharing a moose or bear with the whole village become a thought of how things were in the past? Have we lost our values? Is it time for Stone Soup? These are values we need to teach our children. It may no longer be possible to share a moose with the whole community but the traditional sharing can continue and stay alive through our changing times. The experience of giving and sharing will help our children to understand the need to develop the traditional values of our Elders. Why not invite one of those people to your camp or home for a meal?