Augustus and the Refugees

Early one morning Augustus was awoken by a shaking of his bed. After the initial dismay he concluded that it must have been an earth tremor. He meditated awhile and with his equanimity restored soon went back to sleep.

He awoke at dawn as usual. After his ablutions he decided he would go for a walk. Augustus loved to walk and walking provided him with an opportunity not only to gain some exercise but to meditate as well. He had cultivated the discipline of walking meditation and found it not only useful in expanding his mindfulness but a pleasant and engaging experience.

He had hardly been walking for twenty minutes before a peasant came running down the path towards him in obvious distress.  Augustus hastened to meet him.

“Whatever is the matter?” asked Augustus.

“Oh Master, Master, our village has been destroyed!”

The little Buddhist was dismayed by this statement.

“How could that be?” he enquired.

The distraught young man responded, “It was an earthquake. It came in the night and has flattened most of our meagre dwellings, burying many of our village folk under the rubble. I have come to seek help from your village to try and rescue our poor families from the rubble. Will you help?”

“Of course”, responded Augustus immediately.

Augustus continued, “I will speed to your village as quickly as I can. And you must go on and gather more help.”

Augustus, leaving the young man to try and garner more assistance, broke into a jog. It took almost an hour trotting steadfastly along the track to arrive at the stricken village. On reaching the outskirts, Augustus stopped and gasped in dismay. There was hardly a building left standing. Quickly the little Buddhist joined the villagers in trying to unearth survivors from the rubble.

It was hard and heart-breaking work. Whilst he was able to assist in the rescue of some villagers all too often removing the debris only exposed lifeless bodies.

For some days Augustus helped in the rescue effort that was augmented by many others from his village. Whilst the carnage had been great, many villagers and their families on the outskirts of the village, despite losing many of their possessions, had survived.

On the fourth day the regional Governor with his entourage arrived to survey the damage. The Governor was empathetic and concerned for the villagers. It soon became apparent to him that the village had suffered such devastation that it could not be successfully rebuilt.

His officials gathered the remnants of the village population together, and then he addressed them.

“Citizens,” he said. “You have been the victims of a great disaster and our hearts go out to you. It is clear to me that the destruction has been so great that this village may not be reinhabited. Consequently I am going to give you assistance to relocate elsewhere. Just to the north of here there has been a new village created to exploit some prime land that is fertile and capable of sustaining a large population. The emperor has ordered us to construct additional housing that will be made available to you to assist in the agricultural development. In the next few days I will have wagons despatched here to help you relocate with your possessions.”

This caused some consternation among the citizens. Most had never lived anywhere else other than in this humble village that had been destroyed by the earthquake.

They chatted among themselves about the prospect of relocating. They acknowledged the generosity of the Governor’s offer but still felt misgivings.

Many of them turned to Augustus for advice. He was known to them and well-loved for his empathy and concern.

One group approached him and asked, “Augustus, what will it be like to live in this new village. You have travelled widely and will know of its residents and community.”

Augustus paused before responding. He then asked, “What has it been like living in this village?”

The residents looked at each other and then one offered to speak for them.

“Well to tell the truth it has been difficult. The people here are not to be trusted and they are ignorant in many ways. When we have attempted to give them advice and made suggestions how they might right their wrongs they have largely ignored us. We have done our best to improve this community but alas it has been to no avail.”

Augustus rubbed his chin. “Unfortunately for you I suspect your experience at the next village will be little different.”

Then another group approached him. Again a spokesman enquired, “Augustus you have travelled widely and will likely know well the village to which the Governor is planning to relocate us. What will it be like to live there?”

The little Buddhist mused awhile and then asked, “What has it been like to live here?”

‘’It has been such a joy,” came the response. “Our neighbours have been such caring and concerned folk that it has been a delight to live in the community with them. We could always rely on them and they have been helpful in so many ways.”

Augustus smiled. “Do you know I strongly suspect that you will find the folk in your new community exactly the same!”

And of course so it proved to be. How the refugees saw their neighbours would be largely determined by their world-view and their world-view was not likely to change by merely moving from one location to another.


One Reply to “Augustus and the Refugees”

  1. As a child I recall visiting family friends who had moved house 3 times and each time they had neighbours that they did not get on with. This was not a simple not talking to each other thing but outright war at times with kids throwing mud at windows and so on. I remember commenting to my Dad about how unlucky they had been to find such difficult neighbours all the time, and his reply was; “maybe the neighbours aren’t the problem”.

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