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The Best Story I Heard at GJP

During Mission Year, I worked at the Georgia Justice Project (GJP) as the Prison Support Coordinator. I donned the title “paralegal” and visited our clients in prison. One particular man mentored me in this role. His name is Sanchez and he tells the best stories.

I wasn’t a huge fan of stories growing up. As I think back to my Dad reading to me before bed, I recall a series of non-fiction books about animals and plants and things. I’m sure my parents read fiction to me on occasion but I don’t remember it well. Being interested in math and science, it was easy to ignore. To this day, I’m known kind of strangely for being able to sit down with a good textbook and enjoy a read.

But things shifted a bit in college as I studied the gospel of Mark. Intervarsity emphasized inductive bible study and it taught me to really appreciate the parables. I love parables now. I often wish I were as good as Jesus at telling them and making new ones up. Someday I may practice that and share it here.

Going into prisons for the Georgia Justice Project meant spending about an hour with our incarcerated clients. Passing the time during that hour was often difficult for me. Once a client had shared their story, we rarely had much in common. Sanchez had a way of using those times to counsel clients through the use of stories.

Today I want to share my favorite story that I heard from Sanchez. I don’t know if he got this elsewhere, he probably did. A Google search turned up Aesop’s fable but my story isn’t really like that one. Anyway, if you know this story, share in the comments.

One day, a lion, a fox, and a donkey team up together. They go about pillaging the countryside and gathering the spoils of farms. Together they rack up dozens of sheep and hens, even a few horses. Working through the night, the final tally of goods includes eggs and ducks and cats. They really go all-out terrorizing farms and plundering farmers.

At the end of it all, the lion, the fox and the donkey stand before their loot salivating and dreaming of how good it will all taste. The lion then turns to the donkey and says, “Divide up the spoils fairly. Let’s go our separate ways.” So the donkey trots up and forms three separate groups. He takes all the hens and counts them off putting a third in each group. Then likewise with the sheep and the eggs and everything else. All the spoils are divided evenly across the three groups.

The donkey returns to the lion and to the fox and says, “I’m done. Let’s each take our share and go our separate ways.” The lion takes one look at the groups and BAM he mauls the donkey across the face. Then kills him swiftly. With the donkey dead, the lion turns to the fox and says, “Divide up the spoils fairly. Let’s go our separate ways.”

The fox thinks for a second. Then he trots up to the donkey’s share and pushes all the spoils into the lion’s share. Then he turns to his own share and pulls out a few hens and a couple sheep. He pushes all the majority remaining into the lion’s share. After giving the lion nearly everything, he returns and says, “I’m done. Let’s go our separate ways.”

The lion takes a hard look at his share and at the fox’s. He says, “Pleasure working with you tonight.” Each animal then goes their separate ways.

Kind of a strange story, right? The first time I heard it, I assumed Sanchez had told it incorrectly. What surprised me was when Sanchez told our clients. A few of them didn’t get it, but many did. And they understood almost immediately. Can you imagine why we would tell our clients in prison this parable? Or why they would understand immediately?

With the clients that were easy to get along with, Sanchez would explain the parable. But with others, he just told them to think about it in their cell.

Imagine yourself in the story. Which character are you?