The Village Pump and the Well

Many years ago a traveller arrived at the village of Gotham. He had been travelling all day and was in need of food, drink and rest. He was pleased to see a comfortable and reasonably priced inn, where he stayed the night.

The next morning he felt terrible! The meal from the night before had disagreed with him, and he was really quite sick. The owner of the inn was not surprised. “For some reason people around here just get ill a lot”, He said.

The traveller decided that he would get some fresh air, and when he was outside he saw the cause of this sickness. A lad was filling a bucket of water from a muddy stream. The stream went through a field where goats were grazing and by a building where pigs were housed. The traveller explained to the villagers that the dirty water was the cause of their ill-health. “I helped building a well in my own village”, he said, “and I can help you build one here”.

The traveller supervised the building of the well. As he was digging a child kicked a ball, which hit him in the face. “Don’t play with balls here”, he said “be off with you”. He explained to the villagers that animals should be kept away from the well, and that every few years someone would have to go down and clean out the silt from the bottom. With the job completed the traveller went away.

The villagers were delighted to find that they were all much more healthy. As the years past someone suggested that they write down what they had been told, so that the village would continue to benefit from good health. They wrote:

  1. Drink from the well, not the dirty stream
  2. Never play with a ball near the pump
  3. Go down the well every year.

After even more years had passed the villagers found that during hot dry summers they were bringing a lot of silt up with the water, and were scarcely having enough to drink. It happened that another traveller was going through the village at one of these times and asked for a drink. The villagers gave him what they had to spare, and explained to him that they were short of water in summer.

“What you need, gentlemen, is a pump”, the traveller said, “and it so happens that I can bring and fix one for you for a small some of money. Some of the villagers agreed to pay him, and he returned later with a cart full of metal pieces, pipes and his sons to help him.

One of the villagers said to his wife “write down everything this guy says, I think we might have forgotten some of the things the traveller that build the well said before we wrote it down”. As the man traveller the pump the woman listened and wrote down every word he said. Unfortunately this traveller said a lot. The woman had hardly finished writing “you need to make sure this part never dries out” when he was saying “stop that annoying whistling” to his son. To the villager’s surprise the traveller and his sons played football in the evening!

The man shown the villagers that the pump worked and went on his way. Now some of the villagers thought that using the pump was wrong. “The man who gave us the well stopped the disease in this village. If we ignore him now then bad will come of it”. Others said “but the well is all silty and dry in summer. We need to follow what the pump man said, no whistling and drink from the pump”.

Over the years many visitors were surprised to hear this argument going on. Some tried to explain to the people of Gotham that what matters is a supply of clean water. The whistling and the football had nothing to do with it. They just found themselves targets of abuse.

 

Sometimes when we see contradictions it is because we don’t really understand what is important and what isn’t. If the villagers had understood hygiene and the need for clean water they would have understood that both the Well man and the Pump man were telling them the same thing.

I am using the name Gotham in the tradition of the story “The Wise Men of Gotham“. No offence is intended to the residents of the real village of Gotham.

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