Zen Shorts is a children’s book by Jon Muth. My older daughter, Mother of Sonja who is three, tells me that it is very popular. Check out the author on Amazon; he has lots of other books, some with the same characters as this one. It is about a Panda named Stillwater who appears in the backyard of three children, one of whom is named Michael. I am confused because Pandas are Chinese and Zen is Japanese, but maybe I can sort that out later.
During the course of the book Stillwater tells them three parables. Since these parables touch on the meaning of life as I planned to preach it, I read this parable to the children:
There was an old farmer. One day his horse ran away.
Hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit and said sympathetically, “Such bad luck.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next day his horse returned, bringing two other wild horses. “Such good luck!” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the farmer.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. Again the neighbors offered their sympathy on his misfortune: “Such bad luck,” they said.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war. Seeing that the son’t leg was broken, they passed him by. “Such good luck!” cried the neighbors.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
“I get it,” said Michael. “Maybe good luck and bad luck are all mixed up. You never know what will happen next.”
“Yes,” Stillwater agreed. “You never know.”
And I will probably never know how this story fell on the ears of my listeners.