Giving Thanks

Attitude is one of the key tenets of NLP.  In this sweet story Steve Andreas tells how attitude and setting your perceptual filters can combine to sort your experience and your opportunities to bring you more of what is best for you.


Tom Dotz

Giving Thanks by Steve Andreas.

850 words, approximate reading time 3.7 minutes

There is a story of an old farmer in the 1860s whose land lay along the western migration route in the Midwest. Since the small stream that ran through his farm was the only water along that section of the route, emigrants usually stopped their dusty wagons under the old cottonwood trees to water their horses and cool and rest for awhile, listening to the refreshing sounds of the tumbling water and the summer insects echoing softly in the deep shade. Those who reached the stream late in the day would often camp there overnight before continuing their trek westward.

After all his chores were finished in the evening, the old farmer would often walk down the sloping fields to the stream to visit these emigrants. He liked to talk with them, listening to the sounds of the night and to see if there was some small thing he could do to ease their westward journey.

The old farmer’s slow, measured manner and his soft, deep voice put even frightened children at ease quickly and most people were eager to visit with him. His deeply wrinkled face reminded them of the furrowed bark of the cottonwood trees and his eyes sparkled like the little stream where it tumbled in the sunlight over a rock or a small branch. He seemed as much a part of the land as the green and yellow lichen-covered boulders along the creek, left there by the glaciers some fifteen thousand years before.

The old farmer would often talk with his visitors about what he knew of the trail ahead, suggesting pleasant places to rest or warning of difficult stretches. Sometimes he would take a few raisins out of his faded overalls, carefully brush the blue lint off them with his gnarled fingers and give them to a fussy child to soothe him and allow the child’s tired mother to get some sleep.

At other times, he would reach into his overalls for a nail, a screw, or a scrap of leather to mend something broken in their wagon. Sometimes he would bring along a few cherries or apricots from his small orchard, some fresh green beans from his garden or some other small treat to brighten their spirits at the end of the day.

When he found travelers on the verge of despair, he would reach into his overall bib and produce letters that were falling apart from many foldings and unfoldings and read from them slowly by the flickering light of a kerosene lamp. These letters were from previous travelers who wrote eagerly of finding a new home somewhere in the vast wilderness ahead and of their simple pleasures as they began to settle down and create a new life for themselves. The words from these letters fell on the weary travelers like a spring rain, refreshing and nourishing their spirits.

At times, one of the travelers would think of settling nearby and would ask about the people in that region. To these inquiries the old farmer would always reply, “Well, tell me about the people where you come from.”

Sometimes the traveler’s face would harden, especially around the mouth, and he would reply, “Oh, it was terrible back there. No one could get along with anyone else. People were mean and gossipy, judgmental and self-righteous. There was always some dispute over land or who should fix a fence; I couldn’t wait to get out of there and finally I told my wife we had to leave.”

Upon hearing this, the old farmer would frown slightly and say, “Well, you know, you’d find the people around here just like that. You’ll probably want to move on in the morning.”

At other times a traveler thinking of settling in the area would reply wistfully, “Oh, we loved it at home. We had so many friends; everyone helped each other through the hard times. We got together for barn-raising after the fall harvest, sharing what little we had. When our neighbor broke his leg one spring, we all pitched in to plant his fields for him, and when we were hailed out one year, he gave us grain for the winter and seed corn for the next spring. We really hated to leave, but my wife and I started to think about the space and opportunities out West and the new friends we would meet, so we decided to move on.”

When he heard this, the old farmer’s smile seemed to become as broad as a Kansas sunrise in the summertime, and he would say, “Well, you know, you’d find the people around here just like that. Why don’t you rest up a day or two and look around at some of the land that’s available nearby. I’d be happy to show you around and introduce you.”

–Steve Andreas

Excerpted from “Is There Life Before Death?” by Steve Andreas (c) 1995

(Yes, we still have some copies in hardcover at the special “warehouse treasure hunt” deal… two for one plus half price:   $9.95 plus shipping (that’s actually 75% Off! ) on this story collection, “Is There Life Before Death?”  BTW, a couple of smart cookies who are coaches bought case lots for holiday gifts for their clients.  Great idea, and really congruent with a coaching practice!)

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