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What Makes One Person Sad and Another Happy?

Lately I’ve been hearing news from many people going through difficult times and I am reminded of a story that my dear mentor Dr. David Simon would sometimes share.  It apparently has several possible origins, but I like this version.

King Solomon asked his most trusted minister Benaiah to find a special ring that he wanted to wear for a festival.  He said, “It has special powers. If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he desired to make his minister humble so sent him on this impossible task.

Benaiah traveled many places on a quest to find the ring, but after several months he had no luck and no leads.  On the day before the festival, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest areas of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a special ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” Benaiah asked?

He watched as the elderly man take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engraved something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.

That night the entire city was bustling with festivity. “Well, my friend,” said King Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled.

To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!” As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written on the band “This too shall pass.”

At that moment Solomon realized that all that he had – his wealth, his power – was something that could easily vanish.

On the flip side, knowing that there is a potential light at the end of the tunnel when going through rough times can give one hope enough to ride it out.

Does this story hold true for you?