The Business Man and His Three Employees
a modern parable
Briseadh na Faire
The Teacher sat in the tall grass near a quiet river, facing his small group of young students. “Tell us about Heaven” one of them said. “Yes. Yes. Tell us about Heaven” the group chimed in eager unison.
The Teacher looked at his young charges and began.
“Heaven is like, well, it’s a lot like here” he began. “Take a business man. He’s successful. He runs the show. Everyone must do exactly what he wants, or they’ll be fired, tossed out on the street.”
“So, one day, there’s this business man, and he’s going away on a long trip.”
“To China?” a boy interrupted. “My daddy goes to Chinaa lot. He says it’s for business. Mommy says he has a Chinese mistress.”
“What’s a mistress” another boy asked.
“It’s like a second mommy” a girl asserted, “one your real mommy doesn’t like very much.”
“Ok” the Teacher brought his charges back to paying attention again “to China. And he calls in three of his top employees. To the first one, he gives a stack of ten thousand-dollar bills. ‘I want you to take care of this. It’s ten thousand dollars, and I’ll want a strict accounting when I get back.’ To the second he gave five thousand dollars, and to the third, a thousand dollars, each with the same warning.”
“Then the business man went off on his trip. A year later, he returned.”
“Did he bring any presents?” the first boy interrupted again. “My daddy always brings me presents when he comes back from China.”
“No” the Teacher said, with a patient sigh, “he didn’t bring any presents. But he did call his three employees into his office that very morning. ‘Well,’ he said to his employees, ‘What have you done with my money?’ ”
“The first stepped forward, ‘I took your ten thousand dollars and invested it in the stock market. My picks paid off, and I doubled your money. Here’s your ten thousand, plus ten thousand more.'”
“‘Well done!’ the executive said, ‘You’ve proven yourself with this small amount, so now I’ll promote you to Vice President in charge of our company’s entire stock portfolio.'”
“The second employee, the one with five thousand dollars, stepped forward. ‘I took your five thousand dollars and invested it with a limited liability partnership’…”
“What’s that?” the girl interrupted.
“It’s a kind of business” the first boy responded authoritatively. The girl turned her head back to the Teacher.
“As I was saying” the Teacher continued, “the second employee told the business man, “I invested your five thousand dollars in a partnership that bought up struggling or failing companies and turned them around. I doubled your money while you were gone. Here’s your five thousand, and five thousand more.’ ”
“‘Well done!’ the executive said, ‘You’ve proven yourself with this small amount, so now I’ll promote you to Vice President in charge of our company’s mergers and acquisitions division.’ With that, the first two employees gave each other a high-five.”
“Then the third employee stepped forward and handed his boss an envelope containing the same one-thousand dollars he had been entrusted with. ‘Boss,’ he said, ‘I know you’re a hard man. You profit by raiding other company’s assets and short-selling stocks you don’t own. I cannot profit off of other people’s labors like that, so I put your money in the office safe. Here. Here’s the same thousand dollars you gave me when you left.’ ”
“And with that, the third employee stepped back. The boss grew apoplectic.”
“Huh?!?” the children gasped.
“Purple with anger” the Teacher responded.
“My daddy gets apoplectic whenever I don’t do my chores” a boy remarked, proudly adding his new vocabulary word into use.
“Go on!” the girl urged.
“The boss was apoplectic. He stepped towards the third employee, who shrank back in fear. ‘You! You know about my, shall we say, less than honorable business practices, do you?’ The employee nodded, ‘yes.’ ‘But instead of putting my money in the bank, where at least I could have gotten honest interest, you put it in the safe all this time. Again the employee nodded ‘yes’. ‘Get out of here!’ the boss yelled. ‘You’re fired!’ ‘Security,’ the boss pounded the intercom, ‘escort this man out to the street!’ The boss then took the thousand dollars and gave it to the man who had the ten-thousand dollars. ‘Let this be known, that for as long as I am in charge, those who have the most, will be given the most.”
The children sat silent for awhile, pondering the story. Then, the girl stood up and walked to the Teacher.
“So…” she began, “if Heaven is like here, then God is the boss, and the employees are…us.”
“Yes” the Teacher affirmed.
“Then…” she hesitated, “God is a mean, rotten, no-good man.”
The Teacher’s head recoiled.
“God does evil things to take things away from people. He ruins businesses and puts people out of work. The one guy who stood up to him got fired. Just like what happens here, like what happened to my dad when he blew the whistle on his company.”
Now the Teacher sat, stunned. He hadn’t seen the lesson the way the girl had seen it. He had always thought the lesson was about using the gifts you had and multiplying them, or not using them, and losing what gifts were given.
The Teacher put his hands on the girl’s shoulders. “You know what?” he asked. “You’re right. I learned this story a long time ago, and I always thought it was about what the three employees did, not about what the boss did.”
“Well,” said the girl, “I guess we all need to see the story from all points of view.”
And the Teacher learned from the student.
© 2011 Briseadh na Faire
This is our open thread. We are all, at some point in our lives, teachers. We are all, at other points, students. What have you learned from your teachers? What have you learned from your students?