Willingness is a nice, positive kind of word. A Christian word, one might even say. It conjures up the idea of being "ready and willing", able to help at a moment’s notice. Where would we be without it?
Take, for instance, the Owl and the Pussy Cat, the subjects of Edward Lear’s nonsense poem. You remember how it goes?
The Owl and the Pussy Cat went to sea
In a beautiful, pea-green boat.
They took some honey and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
After a long voyage – "a year and a day" – and a romantic song sung by the Owl, a virtuoso on the guitar, the subject of marriage came up. The Cat accepted the Owl’s proposal, and a turkey living on a nearby hill agreed to be the marriage celebrant. All, however, depended on the acquisition of a ring. This problem appeared to be solved when, in a wood, the pair met a Pig who had a ring in its nose. The rhyme continues:
"Oh, Pig, are you willing
To sell for one shilling, your ring?"
Said the Piggy .....
Now comes the crunch. All hinges on the Pig’s willingness to help a couple in need. What if it turns down their request? The consequences could be disastrous! They would be forced to postpone the wedding and travel on indefinitely in search of a ring.
Their supply of honey would quickly diminish, a sticky situation indeed. Their cache of money would be spent on board and lodging in foreign parts. Back home, the newspaper headlines would scream, "No Ring – No Wedding Says Turkey". The owner of the Pea-Green Boat, on reading this, would be left wondering if he would ever see his property again.
The Owl and the Pussy Cat must have held their combined breaths as this horrific scenario flashed across their minds. After all, the Pig was a stranger. Who could tell what its response would be? A curt refusal was entirely possible.
This was a good-natured Pig, however, with a heart for romance. So the verse goes:
"Oh, Pig, are you willing
To sell for one shilling, your ring"?
Said the Piggy "I will!"
The story ends happily ever after. The couple are duly married by the Turkey, have a wedding feast, and dance together in the moonlight.
The moral? Always show willingness to help others in need, and if an owl arrives in your part of the wood with a strange request, think carefully before you answer. Much could depend on your response.
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