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The Archer

In days of old, a master archer made his living traveling about the land, demonstrating his great skill with a bow and arrow. He thrilled the crowds by performing daring feats of accuracy, after which he challenged local archers to a contest that he always won.

But one day, he proudly entered a small village and discovered targets painted on fences, sides of buildings, trees, and anywhere a target could fit. Startled, the master archer pulled his horse to a stop and stared at the spectacle, his astonishment arising from the fact that in the center of each bull’s-eve was a perfectly shot arrow.

Disconcerted, he began to inquire as to who the amazing archer was that never missed the exact center of his target. The busy shoemaker answered his inquiry by rolling his eyes and impatiently waving him away. The sweating blacksmith responded with a loud laugh but no answer. Finally he approached the baker who was taking loaves of steaming bread out of a stone oven.

“Who is the hunter who never misses?” the master archer asked.

The baker smiled, breathed in the sweet aroma of his bread, and said with a chuckle, “The archer you seek is Old Tom, the town fool.”

“how can you speak so disrespectfully of one with such talent?” the master archer cried. “I must meet this man.”

“I speak no ill,” the baker replied as he slid the hot bread from the wooden shovel and onto the counter. “Let me show you.” Pulling off his apron, he motioned for the master archer to follow him out the door and down the road.

They hadn’t gone far when they spotted a man armed with a beautiful polished bow and a leather quiver full of arrows. The baker reached out his hand to stop the master archer, and together they watched as Old Tom pulled an arrow out of his quiver, strung it on his bow, and shot it into the side of a shed. Without noticing the baker or the master archer, Old Tom slowly walked to the shed, pickup up a pot of paint, and began drewing a target around the arrow.

The baker chuckled. “You see? Our town fool, Old Tom.”

— • —

I love this story for the humor, but even more for the life lesson it teaches me. There is a Master Archer who shoots the arrows (the circumstances) of my life, but I am the one who gets to draw the target. I can draw targets around the arrows like Old Tom and be content with the circumstances, or I can draw my target fifty feet away and fret and vex and stew about a life that doesn’t meet my expectations. The choice is mine, and even a fool is able to understand which way results in happiness and which results in misery.

(From Chapter One: “Painting Targets”, Count It All Joy, Finding peace in a troubled world p 1,2)

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