Once there was a man who had a large farm and many animals. They all worked very hard for their master because he treated them well. The only one that didn’t was the mule. That animal was very stubborn and didn’t like doing anything. He kicked and bit the servants many times and laughed at those who worked. Still the man did what he could to help the donkey.
One winter’s night the farmer was getting ready to travel to a friend’s house when he thought to check on his animals before he left. When he got to the stable he was horrified when he saw the mule was gone. Immediately he told one of his servants to go to his friend and tell him that he wouldn’t be coming because he had to go and find the animal that had run off.
“Why do you want to find that mule?” The servant asked. “He was a stubborn beast and did nothing for your farm. He wouldn’t work; he mocked the other animals, and mistreated us. Look at your horses and your sheep and your camels and cattle. They all work and don’t complain about it. Let the mule suffer and stay with the animals that are loyal to you.”
The farmer replied “I know that donkey was stubborn and lazy, but that does not mean anything to me. You know that I still have many animals that serve and do not complain, but the donkey needs my help the most because he wouldn’t do as he was supposed to. I cannot go and ignore him while he wanders alone and friendless. I must find him.” With that the farmer left in search of his animal.
The cold air of the season bit into him and the wind tried to drive him back. Despite the cold and blackness of the night the farmer pressed on, determined to find the lost animal. He searched in the groves and hills and fields, but to no avail. Finally he did find the mule, caught in a trap and unable to get free. Without a delay the farmer freed the animal, bandaged his wounds, and led him back to the farm.
“Why did you come and find me, Master?” The mule asked. “Have you forgotten that I was an idle beast and would not work for you? I mocked those who did work and would not hearken to your servants. I should have been left out to perish for all that I had done.”
“I know you were not the kindest animal I have. I know you did not wish to work and sought to do what you wanted, and made fun of those who chose to be obedient. That does not change the way I feel. I love all of you as my own children, and to lose even one of you brings me more pain than I can bear.” The farmer replied.
Touched by his words, the donkey said, “Master, if there is anything I can do to make right all that I have done, I will do it. I will plow all of your fields alone; I will carry the heaviest provisions, or even give my hay to the others. Just say what I can do and I will do it.”
The farmer said, “All I ask is that you humble yourself and show others the kindness that I have shown you.”