The Red Shawl
A poor man was a great lover of God. He spent a lot of time in contemplation on the name and form of God. One day a rich merchant happened to pass by his cottage. It was hot and the rich merchant was thirsty. The poor man sensed that the traveler was thirsty so he offered him some cool water. The two got talking and the rich merchant was impressed by the simple truths of life that this man seemed to be aware of. The merchant gave a beautiful red shawl to the poor man as a token of gratitude and appreciation. He also invited him to dine with him the following day saying, “Please wear this shawl when you come to my house.”
The poor man went to the merchant’s mansion on the next day but he did not wear the shawl. The doormen did not allow the simpleton to go inside to attend the dinner party. The poor fellow stood by the gate for some time watching the guests go in. He saw the expensively dressed men and women. He heard the rustle of silk and saw the diamonds sparkling on their person. He saw the gateman offer salutations to each guest as they arrived. Sometime later the man returned to his home.
The merchant meanwhile remembered the fellow and wondered why he had not come. So sharp was his desire to meet the man again that he asked one of his men to go and fetch him saying, “Tell him that I am eagerly waiting for him. Please remind him to wear the silken shawl that I gave him yesterday.”
The poor man came after a while escorted by the merchants messenger, complete with red silken shawl and all! The merchant welcomed him warmly and exclaimed, “Oh! My friend I have been waiting for you. Did you forget to come?” The shawl clad man said, “I came earlier, but no one let me enter your mansion. Now that I have come, wearing this shawl, I have been not only allowed in, but positively welcomed.”
The merchant smiled knowingly and said, “These are the ways of the world. You see it is very important to be well dressed to participate in such a gathering. All the who’s-who of the city is present here. It is but natural that everyone expects you to be well dressed.”
Later in the evening, dinner was served at the magnificent dining table. It was laden with delicacies prepared painstakingly by the best Chefs in town. Wine and exotic fruits were being served freely. When the person serving came up to the shawl clad man, he carefully removed the shawl, folded it twice and laid it on the table. He told the waiter to pour the vegetables onto the shawl. Everyone looked at the shabbily dressed man and the exquisite shawl lying in front of him. The host rushed to the scene and said, “Why did you remove the shawl? Why are you asking for the food to be poured onto it? Everyone is laughing at you.”
The man said, “It is this shawl that has been my passport to this august gathering. So surely it is the one that deserves all these delicacies, not me!”