Inspire Cooperation with Stone Soup

There is an old folk-tale about stone soup that my mother used to tell as an example of what can be achieved when each person brings whatever they have to offer to the group as a whole.

Do you find ways to get your team to bring their best efforts to the organization’s goals?  I hope you enjoy this tale of how the impossible can be achieved when each person digs deep into what they have to offer.

Stone Soup Fable

Once upon a time in the Middle Ages, there was great famine in which the peasants jealously hoarded and hid whatever little food they had. One day two soldiers were returning from war talking with each other: “How I would like a good dinner tonight,” said the first. “And a soft bed to sleep in,” added the second. The two men continued walking in silence when they noticed some lights ahead of them. They were hoping, of course, that they might find something to eat and a bed to sleep in.

When they arrived in the little village, they began to inquire about food and lodging. “”We have no food for ourselves! In fact, there’s not a bite to eat in the whole village” the peasants lied. “You’d better keep on moving.”

The first soldier declared, “Good people! We are hungry soldiers; we’ve asked you for food and you have none. I suppose we will have to make stone soup.” The peasants just stared. The soldier added mysteriously, “Our king gave me a very special gift when I saved his life in battle.”  He then asked for a big cauldron and water to fill it. When the villagers brought the cauldron, the two soldiers placed it in the middle of the square and built a huge fire underneath. Then the first soldier took out an ornate bag from a secret pocket of his cape, removed three very ordinary-looking stones from the bag, and with great ceremony dropped them into the water.

A crowd started gathering in the square to see what all the commotion was about.

“A good soup needs salt and pepper,” the first soldier said, so one of the peasants sent his children to fetch some salt and pepper.

As the soldiers sniffed the soup and licked their lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome the skepticism of the villagers. “Oh!” the soldier said to himself rather loudly, “I do love stone soup. Of course, stone soup with carrots…that’s hard to beat.”

Hearing this, one of villagers sent his son home to fetch some carrots hidden in the cellar. Soon the son returned and they ceremoniously added the carrots to the pot. “Magnificent!” exclaimed the soldier. “You know, I once had stone soup with carrots and some salt beef as well, and it was fit for the king!” The village butcher managed to find some salt beef. And so it went, until soon there were onions, potatoes, barley, cabbage, and milk added to the cauldron.

“It’s soup,” yelled the cooks, “but first we must prepare the square for a feast.” Tables, chairs, torches, and banners were arranged in the square, and the soldiers and villagers sat down together to eat. One of the villagers said, “A great soup would be better with bread and cider,” so he brought out these last two items. The village peasants had never before tasted anything so good that was made of stones, and soon they began singing, dancing, and making merry well into the night.

The soldiers were weary from their travels, so they inquired again to see if there was a hayloft or  spare floor corner somewhere where they could rest for the night. “Oh, no, a hayloft or a corner won’t do for men such as you!” cried the mayor. “You two must have the best beds in the village!” One soldier spent the night in the mayor’s house, while the other was offered lodging in the baker’s house.

The next morning the villagers gathered to say goodbye to the soldiers and offered them a great sum of money for the “magic” stones. The soldiers said the stones were not for sale, politely refused the offer, and then traveled on.

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1 Comment

Filed under Leadership

One response to “Inspire Cooperation with Stone Soup

  1. Hi Carol, thank you for sharing this story I have not heard it in at least 40 years… Have a wonderful evening 🙂

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