Once there was a monk who lived in near isolation, but for a very tiny group of friends and family that he trusted and surrounded himself with. People would sometimes seek out the wisdom of this monk, who was gifted with special insight most mortal people did not have.
It was both difficult and easy to find this monk. Once his location was known, it was only a matter of saying hello, and he would answer from the darkness of his safe haven. One of the monk’s secrets was that he actually loved talking to people, but he had been attacked and injured so many times that he retreated into safety and hid his scarred face and heart from the world.
Many times people had knocked on his door, and the result was nearly always the same.
“Hello? May I speak with you?” the people would say.
“Yes, please, of course,” said the monk. “I get very lonely sometimes.”
At first the visitors were cordial, and would often share tea and secrets with the monk., who hid himself behind a black velvet curtain. But as time would go on, and they tried to get a better look at the man behind the curtain, they would grow more frustrated.
“Why do you not show yourself fully to me?” the people would say.
“Because you would not like what you see.”
“But I’m not like the others, I’d never hurt you!”
The monk would quietly laugh to himself. He had heard this over and over again, from all the people who had attacked him over the years. They were like the others.
Another of the monk’s secrets was that he held the flame of Hope in his heart. So he would do as they asked, thinking that maybe, just maybe, this one would be different after all. The curtain would part, and the visitor would see a shadowy image just behind it.
“Why are you staring at me? It makes me uncomfortable,” they would say.
“I’m not staring at you.”
“Of course you are! And now you’re pointing at me! Why are you making me feel bad?”
“I’m just standing here.”
“Stop lying, I can see exactly what you’re doing,” they would snap at him, their voices growing more angry, “and now you’re saying mean things about me!”
The pattern had come true once again. The monk pulled back more of the curtain to reveal a mirror. The visitors had been looking at what they themselves were doing, and accusing the monk of it all. Like the others, the visitor grew enraged and attacked the mirror, shattering it into a million pieces which slashed the monk’s face and body and heart all over. Then they would leave him forever, infuriated that he would treat them so badly.
“What’s a few more scars,” the monk would murmur to himself as he picked out the glass.
His best secret of all was that, sometimes, a few rare people would see a loving person in the mirror. Broken, wounded, but loving just the same. And they would recognize that it was only a reflection, observing their own flaws and working toward fixing them, instead of projecting their damage onto who they perceived the monk to be.
These few rare people were allowed to pass through and join the monk in his tiny temple, and see his true heart, and the love would grow just a little more. This inner circle would hold him close, and help him pull the glass out, and give him strength to heal for the next time someone would call at his door.
Because, sometimes, it was worth the pain to find one more good heart that could help change the world.