Exactly What We Need

Last night, I read a wonderful story to my four-year-old twins, Avi and Tallia. The book, Caps for Sale and the Mindful Monkeys by Esphyr Slobodkina, tells the story of a peddler who ends up with 16 unwanted monkeys in his backyard. After complaining that the monkeys won’t go away, the peddler’s friend Essie provides sage advice:

“Sometimes we decide something is no good before we have given it a chance. Sometimes what we don’t want is exactly what we need.”

As the story continues, the peddler falls on hard times. The unwanted monkeys in his backyard pitch in to help the peddler out of a jam. In turn, they become the lonely man’s good friends.

In these uncertain times of the COVID crisis, economic instability, and political unrest, we find ourselves in unexpected territory. Worry and doubt can easily overwhelm the best of us, inhibiting our growth and progress. But, what if we follow Essie’s guidance, realizing that what we didn’t want could be exactly what we need?

Maybe the extra downtime will lead to much needed rest and reflection. Perhaps the time we save on our morning commute gets repurposed into exercise, in turn making us stronger and healthier. Maybe the changing landscape creates new business opportunities that were previously dormant. Or maybe we’ll form deeper connections with those that matter most.

It may not yet be apparent, but let’s keep our eyes peeled for the hidden blessing in the midst of turbulence. After Essie encouraged the peddler to see what comes to pass, he grumbled back that he won’t like what happens. “Nonsense,” Essie replied. “You cannot dislike what hasn’t happened yet. It’s just not possible.”

It can be difficult to remain open minded in challenging times, but that is our best and only strategy for a brighter future. We can’t stumble over something that’s yet to happen, so let’s focus on the things we can control in the here and now.

Essie’s advice to the peddler rings true for us all. This week, let’s try to embrace her wisdom. Now that we have some context, here are those poetic words once again:

“Sometimes we decide something is no good before we have given it a chance. Sometimes what we don’t want is exactly what we need.”