Learning from a Donkey

The Following is a story that my principle in high school shared with us as students. I’m not sure why, but it’s stuck with me for all these years. Read it and then I want to share some thoughts…

The story tells about some Villagers who were going to construct a shrine to honor the emperor. The local governor had offered to reward the workers handsomely if they could complete the project on schedule. The location for the shrine contained a well that needed to be filled before the shrine could be built. The Villagers brought a donkey to the site to help them haul in sand and mud to fill the well. As work progressed, the donkey got too close to the well, lost his footing, and tumbled down into the open hole.

Donkey rescue

In order to expedite the construction of the shrine, the Villagers gave up on their attempts to rescue the donkey, and instead opted to bury the donkey alive at the bottom of the well. When the disgruntled donkey realized his fate, he shook off the dirt and dust that was accumulating on his back, packed it down on the bottom of the well with his hoofs, and waited for the next shovel full of his ticket out of the well. After repeating the process for several hours, the Villager’s became curious about what had happened to their beast of burden. They looked down into the well, and were amazed to see the donkey ready to climb out of the now nearly filled hole.

Do you ever feel like the donkey? You seem like your in over your head, you’re all alone, that you have so far to go?

I know I’ve been there and I always think of this story. I think of going up the well as going through the journey of life and leadership. I think sometimes we want to get out of the well in one giant leap, and just arrive.

However, the donkey got out by taking one step at a time. I’m sure each step seemed so insignificant and so small. I’m sure it seemed like he wasn’t making any progress. I’m sure there are times where he thought “I’ll never make it, I’m going to give up, this is pointless” but he kept pressing through, he never quit, and eventually he got out!

I love the end of the story that the people were amazed when they saw the donkey got out of the well. John Maxwell once said, “In the beginning we’re not as bad as everyone thinks we are, but if we do things right, in the end, we’re not as good as everyone thinks we are.”

I think that speaks a lot of truth to young leaders…life and leadership are both journeys, not destinations, marathons and not sprints. If we’ll take each day for what it’s worth and make the decision to grow every day and never give up, we’ll be right where God wants us at the time He wants us to be there. It was the process that got the donkey out of the well and it is the process that will make you the leader God intended you to be.

Enjoy the journey and never, never, never give up.


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