The world is a desert and everyone is trying to reach salvation.
There is one man who had built himself a bucket out of clay. Found beneath harmful cacti, he would find enough water for a days journey and clay to keep his bucket mended. For the clay and water were too heavy to be carried he would need to drag his bucket through the sand, meaning the abrasion would threaten to destroy his bucket before the day’s end. He kept on moving forward with the belief there was oasis ahead, with a goal each day to find a cactus with enough water and clay to continue his journey once more.
One day, the man found something very special in this desert, something much rarer than water or clay. It was another person. And, she too was dragging a bucket of clay in hunt of salvation. They spent that evening sharing water, stories of their journeys, news of potential water hubs, and methods of working clay.
“You know,” she says to him, “if we were to work together and combine our clay we would be able to hold more water. With both of us pushing, our bucket could be large enough that we would not need to stop each day to collect from cacti and dig for clay.”
The man was reluctant for he had worked with people before. The last time he had helped someone was how he lost his plastic bucket that was lighter and allowed him to carry more water. Nevertheless, he was a trusting person, and she promised that she would never let him down. Hesitantly, he agreed, and they combined their clay to make the biggest bucket that they could manage together.
They continued their journey with each other and it worked well for a while. They collected enough water that they could push late into the evenings and get further along. Until one day, the man scratched himself on a cactus for another time.
She asked him, “how many times have you scratched yourself during your time out here?”
“Every day,” he replied.
She checked on his wounds. “Those cacti that you collect your water from are poison. You won’t survive many more scratches.”
“But,” he says, “they yield the most water. It’s the best I can do right now.”
“There may be another way,” she suggested. “You are much better at pushing and mending the bucket. If you can take care of things I could run ahead and find us watering holes.”
From that day on, the woman would set out with a small clay bowl and look for more accessible water. He would push and maintain the cumbersome bucket, and even had a fire, bed, and food ready for her return each night. Soon, she was able to journey so far that she started finding better water sources, trinkets, and cups and bowls that made her runs simpler. But, she began to become upset with her plan.
“We still don’t have enough water,” she said. “I collect so much water. Why won’t you help me?”
“I am trying,” he replied. “The bucket is hefty and there is much to do to set up camp. And, when you are running ahead you are drinking much more water. I take so little and mostly to maintain the clay and prepare the food. But, I suppose I could begin harvesting the smaller cacti and collecting water as well.”
He began collecting water from as many small cacti he could. The more he practised the more water he could collect. Still, he pushed the bucket as far as he could every day, still camp was ready every night. Her journey was going well too. She had been following the watering holes and one day they would lead her to a lake or river where they could settle down for good. Still, she was not satisfied.
“I am finding so much water,” she says. “Why do you collect so little?”
“I am doing my best,” he replied. “I am getting better at harvesting these small cacti and getting more water each day. I keep the bucket strong and camp ready each night. We are going to make it.”
Until, one day, she found herself a plastic bucket.
“With this bucket,” she said, “I can make the journey to salvation!”
“Great,” he was excited. “We will have enough water to make it. Plus, I have gotten really good at harvesting these small cacti. I am collecting as much water as I was from the larger plants before now and I can still improve. Soon, we will have more water than we need.”
“No,” she said. “You do not collect enough water to help me any further. I would be wasting my time to come back here and help fill your bucket. I could make it to salvation on my own, why would I come back for you?”
There were many answers, but none that satisfied her. She wanted to make it to salvation as quickly as possible, even if that meant leaving her friend behind. She packed her things from camp. She filled her own bucket with all the water that had been collected. She took clumps of clay from their bucket to line her own. And she was gone.
He was left alone with a bucket full of holes. He woke up the next day, collected what was left of camp.
He started pushing forward.