Once upon a time, a mother and her daughter were carrying bags of food to a neighboring village where people were hungry and had no food of their own. The two had to travel a great distance, which made them very tired, so they stopped to rest. As they sat down they heard a voice call out to them.
“Hello,” said the voice.
The two travelers looked around, but saw no one.
“Hello!” said the voice again. “Look over here by the rock.”
The mother and her daughter looked over by the rock and there they saw a thorn bush. The two looked at the thorn bush for a moment and then they looked at each other.
“I believe that thorn bush is talking to us,” said the little girl.
“I am not a thorn bush!” said the voice. “I am a beautiful apple tree. If you like, you may sit awhile and admire my beauty.”
“If you don’t mind my saying so,” said the little girl. “You do not look anything like an apple tree and you do look exactly like a thorn bush.”
“Silly girl!” said the voice. “I am the most beautiful apple tree in all the land. Please feel free to sit and enjoy my beauty.”
“Are you quite sure you are an apple tree?” asked the mother.
“Yes,” said the voice from the thorn bush. “I am quite sure.”
“Then perhaps you can help us,” said the mother. “You see, we are carrying food to a neighboring village where people are hungry. Since you are an apple tree, you could give us some apples to take to the people who have nothing to eat.”
“No,” said the voice from the thorn bush.
“No?” asked the mother. “Why not? The people are very hungry. They don’t have any food at all. They would love to have some of your apples.”
“No,” repeated the voice from the thorn bush. “You see, I don’t have any apples right now.”
“Oh,” said the mother. “That’s too bad.” After a moment she said, “Well, we must be going.” And the mother and daughter stood up and continued on the road to the village.
“Come back!” cried the thorn bush. “Come back and admire my beauty!” But the mother and the daughter did not hear the thorn bush.
After the two had traveled many miles, they became very tired once again and decided it was time to stop and rest. They had not been sitting long when they heard another voice.
“Hello,” said the voice.
The mother and her daughter looked around awhile before they noticed a very small man sitting next to a rock. The man was dressed in very stylish and expensive clothes.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m not a bad man. I won’t hurt you. In fact, I’m a very good man.”
“You’re a good man?” asked the mother uncertainly.
“Oh, yes!” he said. “I’m a very, very good man. I read the holy book everyday for hours and hours. I pray each morning when I rise and pray again in the evening when I go to bed.”
“Are you quite sure you’re a good man?” asked the mother.
“Oh, yes!” he replied. “I’m quite sure.”
“Well, then, perhaps you will help us,” said the mother. “My daughter and I are carrying food to a neighboring village where the people are hungry. We’re very tired from walking for so long. Would you please help us carry these bags to the village so that the people there will have something to eat?”
“No,” said the little man. “I’m a good man, but if I were to help you carry those bags, I might mess up my nice new clothes. Then I might not look as good. How would anyone know I’m a good man if I don’t look fine? Sorry, but I can’t help you.”
“Oh,” the mother said. “That’s too bad.” After a moment she said, “Well, we must be on our way!” And the two picked up their bags of food and continued down the road.
“No! Come back!” yelled the little man. “Stay here with me, for I am very lonely!”
But the mother and her daughter didn’t hear the little man, and they continued walking on the road to the village.
For a while the two walked in silence. Finally, the daughter said to her mother, “I’m confused. Today we have seen a strange plant that claimed to be an apple tree. And we also saw a strange little man who claimed to be a good man. But how can we be sure? I mean, how can we tell a real apple tree from a fake one? Or a real good person from a fake one?”
“Well,” said the mother. “It isn’t always easy to tell the difference between something that is real and something that is fake. But it seems to me that if you want to call yourself an apple tree, then you should give the world some apples! And if you want to call yourself a good person, then you should give this world some loving kindness and a helping hand. After all, it is by our fruits that we are known.”