🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #35
The End Of Your Problems
Henry was walking along the beach. He had so much on his mind, so much to do, so much to sort out – the house, the kids, his work. He was barely aware of what was happening around him, until he noticed a big red market stall with “The End of Your Problems” written on the sign above it.
He immediately began walking towards it, despite the thoughts that it was some kind of nonsense product or indulgence.
He walked up to the stall, and no one was there. Nothing was there – no merchandise – nothing.
“Hello,” said a man’s voice from behind, startling Henry who quickly turned his head.
“Oh, hi,” Henry said, “…what’s going on here?”
“Oh it’s just somewhere to get rid of your problems, that’s all,” said the man, innocently smiling. He was a short stocky fellow with thick curly black hair and a round face, with a smile that seemed to be powered by a light behind his eyes.
“How?” asked Henry.
“I’ll show you,” said the character, with a tone so light and free it made Henry relax a little.
The man went behind the counter of the stall and got out a piece of paper and a pen. Then he pulled out a cardboard box full of pieces of paper with writing on, and he let the box drop onto the counter-top with a thud.
“All you do is write down all the problems you want to get rid of. Then you put them in this box, and at the end of the day all of the contents of the box are collected to be used for the beach’s compost toilet. It is a worthy cause indeed, any contribution would be appreciated!” laughed the man.
“But how will that get rid of my problems?” questioned Henry, preparing to make his way from this strange encounter.
“You are giving your problems away,” his new friend replied. “They are taken away in this box and put to good use.”
“But my problems are still there, I have all this stuff to do when I get home that…”
“Your problems are still where? Where do you mean, exactly?” replied the man behind the counter.
“There…just, there, at home, at work…you know!”
“But you are not at home or at work,” he replied. “You are here with me. So surely the problems that you want to get rid of must be here with you, otherwise you would not have come to this stand to get rid of them.”
“So, what do you mean then?” asked Henry, “What, like it’s all in my head? Well it isn’t, and even if it is, there are still all these things to do!”
The curly-haired man seemed unmoved. “I am not concerned with what you do or do not do. I am only offering to take away your problems. You think your actions and your life are problems that you must carry around with you to resolve. But your carrying them in your head does not solve them. If carrying them solved them, you would not have come here. Just try it, just write down your problems.”
Henry entertained his new acquaintance, despite the tension he could feel in his face, and wrote down three things he was worrying about. He did notice, strangely enough, that as he wrote them down on paper, even this seemed to release his need to keep them on repeat in his head.
“Now I will take these away,” said the man, going to grab the pen and paper.
“No, don’t take them,” smiled Henry nervously, feeling part of his mind slipping away. He slammed his hand on to the paper and pressed it into the counter. “If you take them I won’t be able to fix them anymore! I will forget what needs to be done.”
“Oh, so you actually want to keep your problems to yourself then? You do not want me to take them away?”
Refusing to be outwitted by this irresponsible day-dreamer, Henry put him in his place.
“Some of us have responsibilities, you know! If I don’t resolve these issues, no one else will. If I forget all my problems…”
“Yes, then what will happen, tell me…” the short man leaned forward, eager to hear.
“Well, I could lose my job, the kids won’t be taken care of, my family…”
“Really?” interrupted the man. “Very well. Now write down what you can possibly do right now about anything. Please, write down what can be done about all of this…”
Henry looked down briefly at the paper and then said, “Well nothing, when I’m home I’ll have to…”
“Write it down. What can you do about it all now?” asked the market stall man, tapping the paper on the counter with a short stubby finger.
Henry wrote “Nothing”. He stared at the paper, both in awe and disbelief.
“What about thinking?” Henry muttered.
“Everyone who comes here believes that thinking solves their problems,” said the short man, looking out to the sea. “We are always taught to think about everything. What people don’t realise for a while, is that thinking creates problems, and then offers to solve them for you. All of your trouble is a product of thinking, and your thoughts are not true representatives of what is happening. They are like dreams.”
They both stood there for a while, and began to laugh. They thanked each other and Henry began to walk away from the market stand, leaving his paper with the man to put in his cardboard box.
The entire beach looked alive, the people, the sea, the sun, the Earth. He had never really appreciated how amazing this walk was, and so close to his house!
When Henry got home, he wrote a list of what he could do. Then he did it, and that was it.
Nothing was a problem anymore. Nothing needed a story. Stuff that he could not control was not worth his worry, and stuff that he could act on was not worth his worry either. All was done easily, unhurried, as he was no longer desperate to be free from all the problems he thought he had.
The next week, Henry was at the beach again, eager to see his friend and thank him once more. Perhaps he would have even more advice for him! He walked up to the red market stall again, and noticed there was someone standing there. But it was not his guide from last week, it was someone different, just looking around at the emptiness of the content of this stand, as if waiting to be served by someone.
“Hello,” he said to the person, approaching her from the side.
“Oh, hi,” said the visitor, seeming quite startled. “What’s all this about?” she asked, pointing to the vacancy of the stand.
“Oh, just somewhere to get rid of your problems, that’s all,” responded Henry, feeling as if the words were coming out by themselves.
“How?” the woman asked.
Henry looked around for his friend from last week. He was nowhere to be seen.
“…I’ll show you,” said Henry, as he walked around to the other side of the counter.
Story written and read in English by Adam Oakley, Copyright © Adam Oakley