Today's parable is one that my grandfather (my mother's father) used to tell his children. My mother loves to point out to me that her father used to specifically tell this story with daughters-in-law as the main characters rather than sons, which she thought reflected just how much he valued women...
It's a tad predictable, but a great story for young children, who might actually be surprised by the ending...Enjoy...
Once upon a time, there was a very rich old man who had two very capable daughters-in-law. One day, he thought to himself, "I am getting very old and I will need to decide which of my daughters-in-law I can trust to take care of all my fortune when I pass away."
So, one day, he called his daughters-in-law to his side. To each, he gave a handful of unhulled rice and said, "Take very good care of this rice for me. In 4 years time, I will call you again to my side and see how you have cared for it."
The two women were confused and thought the old man must be going mad. The elder daughter-in-law, after some thought, decided to sew a beautiful pouch for the rice. She carefully put the grains in and stored the pouch safely in a trunk in her room.
The younger daughter-in-law, at first, had no idea what to do with the rice. She worried that if she stored it somewhere, an animal might find it and eat it before she could return it to her father-in-law. But then, one day, she thought of an idea.
The next time she went to visit her parents' home, she took the rice with her. There, she asked her brother, who was a farmer, to sow the fistful of rice on a small parcel of land that he hardly ever used. "Brother, grow this rice for me for four years, and at the end of four years, do not re-plant it, but instead, save it for me." He didn't understand why his sister asked for such an unusual favor, but he willingly agreed.
Four years passed and the daughters-in-law, who had become so busy with their lives, had completely forgotten about the rice. It was then that the old man called the two of them to his side and asked them to present the rice he had asked them to watch with care four years before.
The elder daughter-in-law ran straight away to her room and retrieved a beautifully embroidered pouch that was filled with the rice and presented it to him. He was pleased she had been so cautious and careful. Not a single grain was missing.
The younger daughter-in-law, however, had nothing to show him, but she begged him to please allow her to come back and see him in the evening. He agreed. Right away, she went to her brother's house to bring back the rice.
Later, when she approached the old man, he asked her, "Beta, why have you taken all day to get back to me about the rice?"
She explained the whole story to him. She had taken the rice to her brother's house, and he had planted and replanted it for four years for her and now, it had grown so much, that she couldn't easily carry it to him. It had grown into so much rice, in fact, that it had had to be hauled back in a cart that now stood at the entrance of the old man's house! When he went outside to look, the old man was overjoyed. He exclaimed, "Well, you are the kind of girl that will make a pound into a hundred pounds!" He knew then that his younger daughter-in-law would take good care of his fortune someday and was able to live contentedly for the rest of his days.