Once upon a time, in a bustling village, there was a town square where collectors gathered. These were people who made a living by collecting things that other people had discarded. The collectors discovered that once you had enough of various discarded items, they became valuable again. There were pot and pan collectors, stamp and book collectors, and comic book and spoon collectors. All in all, it was quite a collection of collectors.
One day an old man came wandering into the village asking where the collector's plaza was. He carried a large pack, but didn't seem to be burdened by its weight. He installed himself casually in one corner of the square.
Naturally, everyone in the village discovered there was a new collector in town, and they eagerly inquired about what he had in the pack. He simply told them there was nothing in it but his lunch. "You mean; you are not a collector?" they asked. "Oh, yes," he said, "I'm very much a collector. But what I collect does not fit in a pack. I collect people's cares."
Intrigued, the villagers asked him to explain. "Well, you see, I discovered long ago that one of the things everybody has too many of and constantly tries to get rid of, are cares: trials, burdens, sorrows, difficult times - all kind of things that make their lives sad. So I offer to collect such things from them and they feel better. Isn't that simple?"
Most villagers thought this was a silly belief and that the man was just too senile to function. But then, someone asked him how he collected cares, and he replied, "Well, there is probably something in your life that bothers you right now—some care that you have. Just tell me about it and I will add it and I will add it to my collection."
"But how will that help me?" the inquirer asked. "Just try it." The care-collector said. So the person told the old man about something that was a problem. When the story was finished, the care-collector nodded his head deeply a few times, and then put his hand together as if to scoop up something heavy. He pretended to put it into his pack. "There, I have put it away. How do you feel?" he asked.
The person who had his care collected said, "Why, I do feel better. I think I can handle the problem much better now. It really works!" Word spread, and soon there was a throng of people who came to give their cares to the care-collector. Years passed, and the village became known as the happiest place ever to live in, thanks to the care collector's efforts.
One day, just before dawn, the care-collector reckoned his task in this village was completed. So he quietly stood up and lifted his pack in a gesture that was slower and more painful than before, as if the pack was heavier and he slipped away in silence.
It was not long thereafter when a weary and burdened young man came into the village. The villagers, all still the happiest they ever were, helped him as best they could, and when he was feeling a bit better, they asked him if he knew about the old man, the hero of the village, who had left for the city several weeks ago. "Know him?!" the youth replied. "Why, my whole city has been talking about him. Haven't you heard?" "Why, no," the people chorused back, "Tell us what happened."
"That old man came quietly into the city and nobody noticed him, at first," the youth recounted. "Once in a while you could see him talking to people—mostly listening, really. When a person finished talking to him, he bowed his head and did a funny thing with his hands and the person began to feel better. For the first time in a long while, people in the city began to feel better and have a bit of hope for their own lives." "Yes, we know. He did that here, too," replied the villagers.
"Well, one night, as he was leaving the city square, a big storm caught him by surprise, and he was struck by lightning. He died almost instantly, leaving behind only a very heavy, but empty suitcase." The villagers gasped. Some began to cry. "I am so sorry to bring you this sad news" said the youth, and there was a long silence.
Suddenly, the youth exclaimed: "Hey...It still works! I feel a lot better for telling you about the death of the care-collector! Collecting cares still works! You can do it for me, and I can do it for you. He only showed us how!"
The young man jumped up, filled with new energy and strength. "I'm going to travel back to my city, and to many other places as well!!" The villagers tried to stop him, saying that "There are too many cares and burdens in the world, why don't you stay here and avoid feeling miserable as much as you can?" "Exactly! Exactly!" he continued. "That's why I'm going. I will become a care-collector!"