Friday, January 3, 2014

The Magical Guiding Stone

A fifty-acre wood and stream beckoned the young boy. Treasures awaited discovery, and many minnows, crayfish and turtles were certain to be found. As the young boy moved through the wood he traversed the stream often, lifting with his stick the occasional rock in the stream to see what wonders would be revealed. And then the young boy saw it, lying in a silent, still pool – a simple black stone, smooth, no larger than a quarter. Flattened on two sides, rounded smooth by the forces of water and time, the black stone seemingly called to the boy. Lifting the stone from the stream, the boy grasped the stone firmly in his small fist and rushed home as twilight began its approach.

The next day the boy, retrieving the stone from his pocket, asked his father what type of stone he had found. The father took the stone from the boys’ hand, cradled it in his palm, and then rotated the stone among his fingers, all while closely examining the stone with his wise eyes. After what seemed like hours, but in actuality only minutes, the father inquired where the young boy had found the smooth black stone. Upon hearing of the boys’ adventure the day before, and realizing where his son had found the stone, the father exclaimed: “You have found your ‘Guiding Stone’!” The young boy inquired as to what that meant. The father explained, “Whenever you face uncertainty in life, look to your Guiding Stone for the answer. Look hard enough and you will be rewarded."

A month passed, and each day the young boy would place the small black stone in his pocket, often feeling it between his fingers and rotating it left, right, and all around. As summer receded, the day had come for the first day of school, yet again. The young boy, ever so shy, always approached the first day of school with trepidation. Sensing his anxiety at breakfast, the boys’ mother asked: “Can I see your stone?” The obedient boy retrieved the stone from the pocket of his trousers and handed the stone to her. His mother looked at the stone and - as if drawing some magical power from it - closed her eyes and then clasped the stone in her closed hand. A few moments later, opening her eyes widely, the boys’ mother said: “Do one thing each day that scares you.”

The boy took the stone and departed, walking to school to begin the fourth grade, thinking of his mother’s revelation while grasping the stone firmly. That morning, upon arriving at school for the beginning term, the young boy engaged in an action that, at least for him, was terrifying. He walked up to another student, a young girl named Pamela. As he looked at the pretty girl with straight long black hair and large brown eyes, the young boy said, “Hi, I’m Sam. Did you have a good summer?” Pamela, smiling, thus began her first conversation with Sam, one of many more to come.

Years later Sam was attending college. Playing soccer on his college’s team had taken a lot of his time during the first half of the semester, and over the past two weeks his remaining energy was sapped by a severe cold. Sam had fallen behind in his studies, and several of his professors had recently admonished him for being unprepared for class. Sam, depressed, wonder if he should drop out of college, at least for a while. Placing his hands in his pocket, his large fingers happened upon the small black stone. He clasped the Guiding Stone hard, closed his eyes, and for over an hour thought hard about both his recent past and his future, both near and far. The stone seemed infused him with insight, and Sam decided to try harder – to never quit. Sam said aloud, to the surprise of his roommate, “I will never give up.” At the end of the semester, as grades were posted and Sam read the high scores he had secured through his perseverance and hard work, he grasped the stone and, quietly looking down at the Guiding Stone, smiled.

More time passed and Sam found himself in the hospital’s delivery room. As he cast upon his newborn child, Patricia, for the first time, Sam clutched the black stone hard, overcome with a sense of profound joy, yet now facing a world that had dramatically changed overnight. The black stone was there, however, clasped in Sam’s hand and providing, it seemed, a sense of stability for a life now infused with caring, love, and greater responsibility.

Twenty more years passed, and Sam was again at the hospital. His father, after a long illness, had just passed away. Overcome with grief, Sam found an empty corridor and sobbed. Holding the small black stone, Sam felt some comfort. The hollow feeling Sam then felt took years to subside, and never fully disappeared, but the Guiding Stone seemed, to everyone around him, to largely assuage Sam’s grief.

More time passed and Sam at one point encountered failure in his business life. One night, examining some papers, Sam realized that he made a mistake, which could negatively affect his business, his associates, and his family. Sam sought the small black stone from his pocket and grasped it tightly for several minutes. Sam decided then not to try to hide the mistake, but to be open and forthright and, to the extent possible, make amends to anyone negatively affected. As the mistake came to light and was made public, the next several weeks were difficult. Several times Sam grasped the stone in his pocket, as he grappled with the emotions of each day. Yet, with time, the incident passed, and Sam worked hard to repair the minimal damage to his business.

Thirty more years passed. Sam had just finished another one of his many journeys – this time into the upper reaches of the Amazon. He returned to his home and his wife of sixty years, Pamela, exhilarated from the adventure but tired and worn. The next morning he did not awake; his body lay still, in bed, without breath. In his closed hand, however, the family found the one object that never left in his many journeys – the small black stone.

A few days later, family, friends and former colleagues gathered at the wake for Sam, held outdoors by a lake, into which a stream from a 50-acre wood flowed. The wake was a celebration of Sam’s life of success – in business, as a community leader, as a husband, father and compassionate friend to many. Yet one question was on everyone’s mind – what would happen to Sam’s “Guiding Stone”? Would it be passed on to Pamela? Or to one of their children, Patricia or Sam Jr.?

An hour or more passed, and finally a distant cousin asked Patricia, “What will become of Sam’s Guiding Stone, with its seemingly magical powers?” Patricia replied, “Father’s Guiding Stone was with him as Father faced his fears, persevered through hardship, and encountered profound joy. The Guiding Stone was with him during times of deep despair and loss, and it was there when his integrity was called upon the most. This small black stone,” she said, as she raised it into the air, “was always by his side during his many adventures, for it shared his life and infused his passions. But it has no magic powers, save only one.”

The friends, family and colleagues who had gathered eagerly anticipated the next words, awaiting the secret of the Guiding Stone which Sam had, despite their entreaties, over many years, never revealed. Patricia continued: “My Father told me that the secret of the Guiding Stone was its power to remind him, over and over again, that life is about making choices and accepting personal responsibility. The Guiding Stone was his cue for him to look deep within himself, and then to choose to fearlessly travel down the path of integrity and truth. The Guiding Stone was his personal reminder to be ever mindful that our time on Earth is indeed limited, and in that short time one should make choices that embraced righteousness, assistance to others in need, and the illumination of life’s many mysteries.”

Upon completing the explanation, Patricia cast back her hand over her back shoulder and then threw her arm forward. The small black stone flew forth, then disappeared into the shallow mountain lake. The friends, family and colleagues at once gasped, but then remained silent for several minutes, staring out on the ripples spreading throughout the lake into time, contemplating the message and the truth of the Guiding Stone.

From the small lake poured a small stream, into a small wood, where perhaps in some future time another young child would find a small black stone.

Professor Ron A. Rhoades, JD, CFP(r) teaches Business Law, Retirement Planning, Investment Planning, Employee Benefits Planning, Money & Banking, Insurance & Risk Management, and the Personal Financial Planning Capstone courses at Alfred State College, Alfred, NY. He is an EPLP Mentor, C.R.E.A.T.E. program mentor, serves as advisor to Alfred State's Business Professionals of America club, and serves as academic advisor to dozens of students.

Professor Rhoades is the author of "CHOOSE TO SUCCEED IN COLLEGE AND IN LIFE: Continuously Improve, Persevere, and Enjoy the Journey," a 10-week program for success in college (available for $2.99 in Kindle store at, or in paperback for $6.99). Professor Rhoades may be reached by e-mail at:

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