My secret storeroom was full of old and dusty things. Some of them had once been very valuable indeed, while others were just junk. It was so crowded in there that it was hard to see which was which. The room was small, dimly lit and musty, and for as long as I could remember it had been my job to look after it.
I knew what the others would say to me if they knew about my secret store. “This store is messy! You have not been minding it properly. You must sort it all out so that you can throw out all the junk!” I did not want to be ashamed of it if anyone saw inside, so I set about cleaning the store, sorting it all, cleaning out the boxes and ordering all the items.
There was a lot in there but gradually I got a sense of what was in there, and I even created my own filing system. I kept changing the system as I discovered more and more in there. For a small room it contained a lot. The others never asked me what I was doing. They just went on playing out in the sun while I was busy organising the store.
After many months of ordering and sorting I became impatient, and I decided to spend all day, every day in the store. I foolishly believed that if I managed to sort it out, then I would be free of my obligation and would be able at last to play outside in the sun. Day and night I worked, sorting and ordering and creating a dozen new filing systems each day.
I tried to tell the others how I was doing but they didn’t understand the complex filing system I had created and they obviously didn’t want to know. So I remained alone in the store, working and working.
Then I became exhausted and I was ill in bed, but still I worked, in my head, planning new filing systems, dreaming of the day when I would be free to go out in the sun like the others did. As I lay in bed, I learned the pleasure of just doing nothing. I listened to the others playing in the sun and wished I had the energy to be out there with them, but I was so exhausted from running the store that I did not have the energy to play. If I did go out I was only able to watch from the sidelines while the others played, and anyway I didn’t understand the rules of the game because I had never played that way before.
As I learned to do nothing, some new ideas came to me in the blessed silence that fell. I wondered how the others kept their stores in order so well that they had time to play. I watched and listened and learned; I wondered and speculated and dreamed. I became weary of that too, because I had tried so hard to work it all out, but still I had failed to mind my store efficiently enough so that I had time to play with the others.
I lay there in my bed, exhausted, and one day I simply gave up in despair. I could not manage this. It was beyond me. “Someone one else can do it!” I cried, and at once I realised that I had never been given the job of minding the store, but had just decided myself to take the job on.
But who would mind the store if I stopped looking after it? What would happen to all the precious things? Would they be lost forever?
And I dreamed as I lay there, and in the dream I went to the store and looked at it with one long, loving look, and closed the door and stepped out in the sunshine to play with the others. As I stepped away I knew that there was someone there behind me who had entered by the same door and had stepped into my shoes, but I didn’t look back, because I didn’t want to know who it was.
I slept a long sleep while in my dreams someone else minded the store, and when I awoke I felt refreshed, for I knew what to do. I got out of my bed and decided not to mind the store that day. It was hard, because I still wanted to put some of my plans into action. However I found the courage to turn away, and it wasn’t so difficult then, going out to play.
The others welcomed me and taught me the rules and all the time I learned to believe that everything was OK; that there would always be someone minding the store, and it did not have to be me. But then I realised I had left my own precious things behind in the store! Who would mind my own stuff? Could I go back to the store and just mind my own stuff and leave others to mind theirs? I didn’t even know which stuff was mine and which stuff belonged to the others.
I felt ashamed of myself that I should neglect my own precious things while I worked out all those fancy filing systems to handle everyone else’s stuff. I had imagined I had the power to tidy up the whole place, and I was just enjoying being in charge, showing off how clever I was, when all the time I was not minding that part of the store where my own things lay.
Humbly I went back to reclaim my own things, and I carried them with me as I walked, knowing that there was someone else to mind the store.