Once there lived a father and a son. The father loved his son very much as did the son love his father. One day the father said to his son, “You’re old enough now to perform a chore for me. I want you to take this silver coin, travel across the country and deliver it to the king. If, for any reason you lose the coin, come back to me and I will give you another one.” The boy, feeling very sure of himself took the coin and began his long journey across the country.
When he came to the town, he was interested in the things they were selling. So he bought a piece of candy from one of the booths with his father’s silver coin. Upon doing this, the boy felt sick to his stomach and knew that he had let his father down. He returned home to his father with a broken heart. But the father did not scold him nor punish him like he thought he would do. Instead the father smiled and gave his son another silver coin and said, “Now, be careful when you cross through that first town. Don’t stop to look at anything.”
The boy was soon on his way, thankful and glad for his father’s reassurance. When he got to the town, the boy did not slow down like he did the first time. This time he picked up speed and ran all the way through without stopping. When he reached the end of the town, the boy was tired and had to slow down.
At the end of the town was the woods, and sure that he was safe from any danger, the boy strolled along carelessly. Before he reached the end of the woods, a beaver came out from behind a tree and told the boy that he would cut down a tree and provide a bridge for the river up ahead… but it would cost him one silver coin. The boy agreed to this, because he wasn’t prepared to go swimming. Upon giving the beaver the silver coin, he realized that there would be no point in continuing on in his journey without the payment due to the king. So the boy, very much ashamed at his lack of preparation, turned around to collect yet another silver coin from his father.
The father’s heart melted when he saw his son coming home with his shoulders slumped and head hung low. The son cried to his father, “I’m so sorry.” And the father spoke these words to him: “Here is another silver coin. Take it, and do not simply walk through the town letting your eyes fall on whatever is available, and do not let your guard down when you enter into the woods. Run as fast as you can, stopping for no one for you know now that you cannot trust the people there.”
So once again, the young boy set off across the country, running through the town, and running even faster still through the woods. When he reached the river at the end of the woods, he noticed that a tree lay across stretching to the other side, just like the beaver promised to do. But he also noticed that the river was no deeper than the height of his ankles; it was more like a stream.
The boy continued to walk on past the woods, being very exhausted by now and was breaking quite a sweat. When he cleared out of the woods completely, the boy found himself at the foot of a windy road leading up a high mountain. The boy pressed on, though slow as a snail because he was still trying to catch his breath from the long run. Half way up the mountain, the boy came upon a wishing well. Now everybody knows the law of the wishing well. One tosses his money in and makes a wish. So the boy tossed his silver coin in and wished for a dozen more silver coins. The well told him to go home and ask his father.
Dumbfounded and empty-handed the boy returned home and apologized to his father once again. Certain that his father would scold him this time, the boy found himself to be very hesitant when he entered into his father’s house. But the father did not scold his son this time either. Instead, the father gave him another silver coin and said, “Be a bit more careful this time. Make sure you hurry through the town, run through the woods stopping for nobody because you know the woods people cannot be trusted, and make haste up the mountain as fast as you can, wishing only that you make it to the top.” With these words the father hugged his son and sent him on his way once more.
The son did what his father told him and hurried through the first town, ran through the woods, and made haste up the mountain. But in each new terrain, the son somehow lost his silver coin either by being careless and losing it or giving it away or spending it on something ultimately worthless. And each time the son found himself empty-handed, he returned home to his father, who was always waiting with another silver coin and a smile. Needless to say, the boy got his wish and he received more than a dozen silver coins – one at a time, of course.
One day when the boy returned home yet again to apologize to his father, the boy said, “Father, every time you send me out on the same quest, and every time I fail you. How come, when I return home to apologize, you’re never angry at me?”
The father’s response was simple, and it was then and there that the boy understood his father’s compassion. The father said, “My son, the tragedy isn’t that you make mistakes. The tragedy would be if you never returned at all.”