What are the people like?

old_woman_or_young_miss_best_optical_illusionAnd now for a retelling of one of my favorite folktales:

An old woman sits at the side of a road, a rough lunch of bread, cheese, and wine spread before her. She spots a weary traveler and asks her to sit and share her meal. The weary young woman plops down and with a nod of thanks, digs into the food and drink. Finally satiated, leaving only a few crumbs, she looks up and meets the eye of her benefactor. “I’m searching for a new place to live. Can you tell me about that town just up the road?”

The old woman refills the traveler’s glass with wine and asks, “What were the people like where you came from?”

The young woman’s face creased in a grimace and her eyes grew hard. “Oh, they are awful. Foul, bitter, mean-spirited folks always out for themselves. They are terrible cheats, liars, and their children are worse. The town is uglier than the people. I’m well shut of them.”

The old woman gathered up the leavings, wrapped them in paper and handed them to the traveler, shaking her head. “Sadly you will find the people in that town over the hill much the same. Safe journeying to you.”

The next day the old woman came to the same place and spread the same meal. When she saw another weary looking traveler, she invited her to sup. As the young woman sat down to face her host, she nodded gratefully and accepted the food and drink. When she had eaten enough and left more than half, she said, “I’m searching for a new place to make my home. Please, what is that town like just up the road?”

“Tell me about the town you’re from. What are the people like?”

The young woman’s face creased with a smile, and her eyes twinkled. “Salt of the earth, wonderful, warm, always looking for a way to help each other. Each always has a ready smile and hospitality to offer. I really miss them, and hope I find others just as nice somewhere else.”

The old woman gathered up the leavings, wrapped them in paper and handed them to the traveler. “Luckily you’ll find the people in my town much the same.” She rose and took the younger woman’s arm. “Let me escort you over the hill and introduce you around.”

Moral:  You get back what you put out.

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