I read this story on the book “Let Me Tell You A Story” by Jorge Bucay. I found it very interesting, but I couldn’t find it anywhere around the internet, so I decided to translate it and post it here. I translated it from the greek version of this book. I think the original story is written in Talmud. Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism, in the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history.
There wasn’t any job, more infamous and poorly paid than this, but what else could this man do? Indeed, he never learned to read and write, nor any other work or art. In fact he had this job, because his father was the porter of the brothel and also, his father’s father before.
For decades, the brothel passed from parents to children and the same thing happened with the concierge desk.
One day, the old owner died and a young man with concerns, creative and entrepreneurial spirit took over the brothel. The new owner renovated the rooms and then, he gave some new instructions to the staff.
He said to the doorman: “ From now on, apart from guarding the door, I want you to give me a weekly report. You will write down how many customers come every day. Every five clients, you will ask how they were served and what they would like to improve the business. And once a week, you will give me a written report with the comments that are important, in your opinion.
The man began to tremble. He was always helpful and hardworking, but…
“l would be glad to satisfy your wish, sir, but I… I do not know how to write and read. “, the porter said.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. As you know, I can not pay another person to do this job, and I can not wait for you to learn to write. So ….”
“But, sir, You can not dismiss me. I work here for all my life, like my father and my grandfather did…”
He didn’t let him finish. “Look, I understand. But I can not do anything. Of course, you will be compesated. Ι’m sorry. I hope you will find an other job soon. Good luck.” And without another word, he left.
The man felt like his world was destroyed. He never have thought that he could be found in this position. He went home, unemployed for the first time in his life. What could he do?
He remembered that sometimes in the brothel, when there was a broken bed or cupboard, he managed to repair it with a hammer and some nails. He thought that this could be a temporary job until he finds something more permanent.
He looked around the house for the tools he needed, but all he found was some rusty nails. He had to buy a complete collection of tools and therefore he would use a portion of the compensation he took.
On the corner of the street realized that in his village, there wasn’t any blacksmiths. He had to travel for two days, with the mule, to go to the closest village and buy the tools. “Why not?”, he tought. And he began to travel.
When he came back, he was carrying a beautiful box, full of tools. When he got into his house, someone was knocking on the door. It was his neighbor. ” I want to ask you if you can lend me a hammer..”
“yes, I have a hammer, but i need it for my work. As you may know, they kicked me out of work and…”
“Ok. I will return it early, tomorrow morning.”
The next morning, as promised, the neighbor knocked on the door.
“Look, I still need the hammer. Can I buy it from you?”
“No, I need it to work with it. Furthermore, the blacksmith’s is two days away from here. “
“Let’s make a deal.”, the neighbor said. “I’ll pay what you need to go to the blacksmith’s and come back and also the cost of the hammer. After all, you’re still unemployed. What do you think?”
Indeed, in this way, he would have a job for four days…
When he returned, an other neighbor was waiting at his door.
“Hello. Did you sell a hammer to our neighbor?”
“Well, I need some tools, too. I can pay for the days when you will travel and a small profit on each tool. You know, it is not easy to find time to travel to make your purchases.”
The former doorman opened the box with the tools and the neighbor chose a pair of pliers, a screwdriver, a hammer and a chisel. He paid and left.
He remembered the words of his neighbor. “…it is not easy to find time to travel to make your purchases…”
If that was right, many people would need someone else to travel and bring some tools for them.
In his next travel, he decided to risk some of his money and he would buy more tools than he had sold. In this way, he would save some time.
The next day, the whole village knew that the former janitor, now marchant of tools, go to the neighboring village and purchase what his customers need. He quickly realised that if he found a place to store the tools, he would make fewer trips and would have higher profits. So, he rented a warehouse. After some weeks, he made a bigger entry and he added a shop window. This was the first blacksmith’s at the village. Everyone was satisfied and bought tools in his store. There was no need to travel, because the blacksmith’s at the nearby village, was sending him his orders. He had been a good customer.
In some weeks, many buyers from smaller and more distant villages prefered his store and saved four days of journey.
Ιn order not to say a long story, let’s say that in ten years that man had become ekatomyriouchos manufacturer and vendor of tools with his hard and honest work. And finally he became the largest businessman of the region. He was so powerful that one day, to mark the new school year, he decided to donate to his village a school. Besides reading and writing, there would be taught the arts and the most important knowledge of that time.
The Mayor and the Governor held a big celebration for the opening of the school and a great dinner in honor of its founder. In the end, the Mayor gave him the keys to the city. The Governor embraced him and said: “With great gratitude and pride, we ask you to do us the honor to sign the first page of the book with the documents of the new school. ”
“The honor is mine, “said the man. “I think that I would like to sign this book, but I do not know to read or write. I am illiterate. “
“You illiterate? “ said the Governor, who could not believe it. “You do not know how to write and read? You created a commercial and industrial empire not knowing how to write and read? I am amazed! I wonder what you could do if you knew reading and writing.”
“I can answer” the man answered calmly, “If I knew how to read and write now I’d be……………a brothel’s porter!”
tagged as: Jorge Bucay, Let me tell you a story, Talmud, Stories,
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