Long, long ago in a country far away, the King called all his subjects to the castle for a time of celebration. During the festival the King issued a decree: “My loyal subjects, from this day forward you must guard your hearts, as you would guard a precious treasure for it will determine the course of our kingdom. You must be careful to love your king with all your heart and love your neighbor like you love yourself. In this way, you will guard your heart and keep our kingdom safe.”
When the people heard this royal decree they fell to their knees before their beloved ruler and wholeheartedly pledged their love for king and countrymen. Later, many of his subjects thought that what their King had asked was such a simple request and wondered why he hadn’t asked for more. Many declared that they were ready to give their life for him if only he would ask.
After the festival, life returned to normal in the kingdom. The farmers returned to plow their fields and plant their crops, shop owners opened their stores and plied their trades, and knights rode out to guard the borders of the kingdom. All was well in the land . . .
But time has a way of causing people to forget their promises and such was the way of this promise. . .
One day, a farmer brought his horse into town to be shod. To pass the time the farmer visited relatives that lived in the town, picked up some much needed items for the farm and passed the time with pleasure.
Meanwhile, the blacksmith began the careful process of cleaning the horse’s hooves and replacing the worn out shoes. There was joy in his heart as he worked. He enjoyed caring for these magnificent creatures and each one he cared for as if it was his own.
But this day, without warning the horse suddenly fell to the ground with a loud crash! The blacksmith was paralyzed with fear. He looked on the horse with dread wishing the flanks to move but there was no breath left in him. He was dead.
The blacksmith in a stupor waited for the owner of the horse to return. How was he going to explain to the farmer that his strong, healthy horse was dead?
The farmer flew into a fit of rage as the blacksmith explained what had happened. He was out of his mind with anger. He hadn’t just lost an expensive work horse; he’d also lost his livelihood. How would he ever feed his family and take care of his farm?
When he returned home, he looked out at the fields that would never get planted and a bitterness like he’d never known took root in his heart. It festered and grew and before long he became obsessed with destroying the blacksmith just like he had destroyed him.
But rather than pleading his case before the King, he turned to his fellow farmers and with hostility in his heart and malice in his words; he told them what the blacksmith had done to him. As the farmers listened they began to think of times when they had been cheated or abused by the townspeople and their anger burned against their fellow countrymen.
As one, the farmers picked up pitchforks, hoes and anything else they would be able to use as a weapon and marched into town.
News of the war reached the King but it was too late, the damage had been done. The country was plunged into a civil war, brother fought against brother, father against son, friend against friend and the devastation was everywhere, in their land and in their hearts.
The King did everything in his power to halt the war; he called for his knights to return from protecting the boundaries and he sent emissaries to talk to both sides but nothing was resolved. Year after year the battle raged until no one remembered any longer why they were fighting.
The Kingdom became a waste land of broken hearts and broken lives; everyone having forgotten what they had willingly promised to their King so long ago.
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