Today, a Sudanese fable:
Ebok and his wife had fallen on hard times. Drought set in after a season of poor-selling, meager crops. Their children, now school aged, had no shoes to carry them to school. They were beginning to go hungry. Every night Ebok prayed to God for a miracle. He prayed for God to send something to save his family.
One night – after many, many nights of praying – God appeared.
He appeared with a cow the size of three cows combined. A cow, Ebok knew, that would save his family and secure their future.
“I’ve heard your prayers, and have come with a gift,” God said to Ebok, “So this cow can be yours from this moment on, unless, of course, you’d rather have the What.”
Ebok replied like anyone would reply. “Well, what is the What?”
And God said what any God would say, “The What, my son, cannot be described.”
Ebok was distraught. Clearly God would not mention this What if it wasn’t worth wanting. He would not come and offer a gift that could not save him and his family, just as the cow would. But what was the What?
After a few moments God pressed Ebok to make his decision. Ebok looked to his hut where his wife and children slept, then back to the very fat cow standing before him. And in that moment he knew exactly which he had to choose.
The story is from the book I’m reading – Dave Eggers newest novel titled, appropriately, What is the What. I can’t decide which Ebok chose. Did his faith in God lead him to take a leap and choose the What? Or did his love for his family, and immediate needs, make him sacrifice adventure for security?
And which would I choose? The unknown or the certain? The security or the thrill? The cow or the What?
I’d like to think I’d choose the What. I’d like to think I’ve chosen it already. But does choosing the cow mean I can be satisfied with basic needs? That I can sacrifice adventure for what’s truly important? That I can focus on care for my family?
Is the What for fools or for dreamers? I’m not sure it matters. I’m fairly certain I couldn’t live my life knowing I had a chance at having the What – and passed it up for a cow.
Which would you choose?