A Tale of the Person Called P
Written for the Inaugural Ceremonies of the
Palo Alto University Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota
5 June 2016
William H. Snow, Ph.D.
This story begins like all good stories begin. It begins with “Once upon a time in a land far away”. The person of interest in this story is a person of young age who is contemplating moving out from the shadow of their family’s home and into a world of adventure, exploration and achievement. This young person we will simply call “P” for short. Part of the fun of the story is for you to try and figure out who is “P”.
“P” has lived in this village all their life. It is an ancient village with thick stone walls that in wilder times protected the villagers from beasts of the night and the occasional wandering army looking for fame and conquest. But those were days of old and now the thick walls are simply a relic of days gone by with its stones holding secret memories and long lost stories. If only the rocks could talk. The heavy gates now are always open. No more threats of armies and invaders. The hinges are so rusted they will likely never shut again.
Although “P” loves the small village “P” is somewhat concerned about its own future. “P” looks around every day and sees many people who have never left their village. They have seen very little beyond these ancient thick walls. Most seem very content and happy though they have never ventured far from their homes. “P” secretly pities those who have never wandered from this simple hamlet. Aren’t they curious about what is out there? Do they not want to leave? “P” aspires for more.
“P” is a good person with a good heart and good intent. “P” does not necessarily want to get rich, money is not a priority for “P”. “P” just wants to do something important. Someday “P” determined to come back to that village and people would be proud of the accomplishment of “P”. But, “P” was driven to seek and explore. “P” wants more. “P” has been quietly and diligently preparing to step out into the larger world, explore what it can offer and to make those in the village proud of what “P” would do. Someday, they would see.
“P” would not be the first person to leave the village and return after accomplishing something great. In the town center is an old, ancient village park. There are a number of old, moss covered stone statues honoring the important people of the village. Wind, rain and the effects of time have long since worn down the carved inscriptions to make them virtually unreadable. “P” knew what they did must have been important, though, there was a statue for them. “P” wondered if one day a statue would be erected with “P’s” name and deeds on it. Would “P” make an impact? “P” still had doubts. Would anyone remember “P” in the years to come?
There was a small school in the village. It was next to the park in the center of the town square. It was built with similar stonework and reflected the same rich history as the ancient village walls. “P” was a good student and studied diligently. “P” had learned all that could be expected of a young person in that school.
Within this ancient school was the head teacher who the young people of the town believed was even more ancient than the city walls. No one knew how old the head teacher was or where the head teacher had come from. The head teacher had been in the village as long as anyone could remember and was clearly the oldest individual in the town. When you looked into the face of the head teacher you could not really tell how many years had gone by to give this look of age and antiquity. With silver grey hair, weathered skin, deep set eyes and a slow deliberate gait there was always a sense of mystery if not a bit of reverence. How old? How long? At times the head teacher would tell tales about the great world outside the walls of the village. Most were tinged with wonderment and a few with hints of regret. For generations of towns people, the head teacher faithfully shared knowledge and wisdom with those who passed through the halls of this ancient, but humble school.
The library in the school was exceedingly small as well. Virtually all books and scrolls had been read, studied and read again by “P”. “P” had extracted all the crucial information from these meager collections. But “P” wanted more.
One day “P” was despairing of finding another morsel of truth from a book he was reading for the third time. The head teacher walked up behind him with soft, wrinkled skin, put a hand on “P’s” shoulder and softly said, “It is time”. It is time for you to leave and to seek, explore and satisfy your quest outside these ancient walls. You are done here and there is no need to return to this simple school and this humble library. You are ready, but, for one more thing. Go, prepare your family, say goodbye to your friends and when you are ready come back here one more time. I have a two gifts for you to take with you on your journey.
It took a few weeks for “P” to make preparations to leave. Physically “P” had little in the way of possessions so packing a bag was easy. “P’s” family and friends had been observing “P” for a long time and they new it was time. On the day “P” was to leave, they wished “P” the best, gave “P” a few coins to help the journey along, and watched as “P” made the one last stop to see the head teacher.
Now, the head teacher was waiting patiently for “P” within the ancient stone walls of the school in which “P” had spent so much time. As “P” entered the humble office of the school’s headmaster he saw laid out on the desk five scrolls of brown, aged parchment. “P” approached the scrolls and sensed them to be as old as the ancient walls of the school. He felt a tingling as he got closer. The objects glowed with a magical appeal. What were these enchanted objects. Were these the gifts? But, there were five not two.
After a time, the headmaster broke the silence and awe by asking “P” to come closer to carefully look at the scrolls. The headmaster said in a careful and measured voice, “You may choose two scrolls for your journey, but only two. What you choose will shape your adventures, exploration, achievements and the shape of the rest of your life. What you pick is what you will become. You may pick up and carefully examine each scroll while you are in this room, but, you can only leave with two. Choose wisely.“
“P” stepped forward, carefully examined each scroll and ready quietly.
Scroll #1- The Gift of Financial Wealth
Scroll Number one read, “The Gift of Financial Wealth will ensure you never lack the resources to secure the physical possessions you desire. Beware, although you will find yourself rich with things and many people may want to be close to you because of your things, this scroll only can provide the physical resources you need to succeed. Choose wisely”.
“P” said to self, “I do not care much about money so much so choosing is not so hard. This is rather easy.”
Scroll #2- The Gift of Reputation and Renown
Scroll number two read, “The Gift of Reputation and Renown will ensure your life will surely end with everyone knowing who you are and what you have done. Beware, although this scroll will ensure you will be known by all, it does not guarantee that anyone will really know you for who you really are. Choose wisely.“
This choice caused “P” to pause. Was it not reputation and renown that “P” was seeking?
Scroll #3- The Gift of Intellect and Letters
Scroll number three read, “The Gift of Intellect and Letters will ensure your ideas will become inscribed in books and scrolls across the land for people to discuss. Beware, although this scroll will ensure your ideas will be known and discussed, it cannot guarantee that anyone will ever know you as person or a friend. Choose wisely.“
“P” thought to self, I wish I could have more than two. Why must I make this choice?
Scroll #4- The Gift of Power and Persuasion
Scroll number four read, “The gift of Power and Persuasion will ensure that you will be able to influence and lead people to achieve great accomplishments. Beware, although this scroll will ensure you will have many acquaintances, and, you will have influence over people to achieve your ends, in the end you may have no one who truly cares about you or calls you a friend. Choose wisely.”
“P” wrestled even more internally. Only two?
Scroll #5- The Gift of Character and Wisdom
Scroll number five read, “The Gift of Wisdom and Character will ensure that you are known as a friend to many and you will have a rich life of relationships. Beware, although this scroll will ensure you will be loved and have many friends, you may never be widely renowned and you may never have ideas known by all. Choose wisely.”
After much deliberation “P” picked up two scrolls, thanked the head teacher and walked out of the ancient stone gates ino the world. Just as the head teacher promised, the two scrolls that were picked shaped “P” for the rest of their life.
Which scroll did “P” choose? Who is “P”? Do you even know P’s gender”? Did you guess who I was speaking of?
The person of “P” symbolizes your future path, your potential and all the possibilities associated with each. “P” is really about you, each and everyone one of you.
In many ways I see myself in the role of that old teacher who has walked in the world longer than most. But I am not the only teacher who has influenced you, I just have more grey hair and wrinkles than most. So many teachers like myself have seen students come into our offices and make the same choices as “P”. Margaret Lamar and Megan Speciale are also two teachers attempting to mentor the counselors, educators and leaders of tomorrow .
What about the magic scrolls? These magic is not in the scrolls, bu,t in the choice of the scrolls. The five scrolls represent some of the basic, shaping choices we make every day.
What scrolls did you choose, or, more correctly, what scrolls will you choose to carry with you when you leave this institution and go into the world?
Scroll #1- The Gift of Financial Wealth?
Scroll #2- The Gift of Reputation and Renown?
Scroll #3- The Gift of Intellect and Letters?
Scroll #4- The Gift of Power and Persuasion?
Scroll #5- The Gift of Character and Wisdom?
Finally, I want to close by saying I was asked to speak about leadership. I took it upon myself to talk about the character of the leader. You are the future leaders of the counseling profession, this society and nation. Choose wisely.