…in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a man named Noway. Noway was a well-respected man in the kingdom. While not wealthy, he had many friends who often asked for his wisdom and teaching in various aspects of their lives. Noway and his wife had many children, all of whom adored their father and mother. Throughout the kingdom, from the marketplace to the schoolyard to the church, Noway’s children would hear from the townspeople about how wonderful their parents were-how helpful and caring they were-how selfless and giving they were. And the children all learned that their parents were among the most esteemed in the kingdom.
One day, the schoolmaster came to Noway and said, “Your children are so smart and so respectful. They are excellent students who willingly share their knowledge with others. It is clear that you and your wife have raised your children well.”
With a slight nod of his head, Noway accepted the praise with humility. “Thank you, good schoolmaster,” Noway said. “My wife is owed much praise for the manners with which my children have grown accustomed.”
The schoolmaster nodded vigorously, and then pushed ahead. “I understand,” he said. “But I know that she is also busy with the affairs of your household. Would you consider joining me at the school to teach other students to be kind, giving, and respectful to others, as your children demonstrate with such ease?”
Noway locked the schoolmaster with a measured gaze. “I will consider it,” Noway said. “But,” he added humbly, “You know that I am very busy with my other tasks.”
“I understand,” said the schoolmaster. “I would not ask if it were not so important. We will pay you five gold coins a week to do this.”
Noway looked surprised. While not wealthy, he knew that the addition of a bit more income would make things considerably easier on his family, especially his wife. “Very well,” replied Noway. “I will do this for you and for the children of our kingdom. The additional money will be helpful.”
“Thank you, Noway!” said the schoolmaster excitedly. “We will see you at the school house on Monday morning.”
Noway nodded in acknowledgement as the schoolmaster withdrew.
Later that afternoon, the priest from the Cathedral knocked on Noway’s door. “Good Reverend!” intoned Noway. “Do come in! How can I help you this fine day?”
“Noway, your family has served in the Cathedral for many years…since before your first child was born.” The priest looked at Noway with fondness.
“That is true,” replied Noway. “Service to God is a privilege, and the highest calling bestowed on any man or woman. I do so with joy and happiness.”
“I see that in the lives of you and your family, Noway. Your example is one that I wish to see emulated throughout our parish.” Suddenly, the priest appeared very nervous.
“What is it, Good Reverend?” Noway asked, as concern crinkled the lines at the edge of his eyes.
“Noway, we have a need for more people to serve. As you know, the number of parishioners has increased. This is both a blessing and a curse. With more people comes more responsibility to care for our flock. But many do not see the value in service that your family does.”
“How can I help? asked Noway, humbly.
“Would you consider meeting with different families to help mentor them in the ways that they can be of service to others and to the church?” The priest fidgeted apprehensively. “I know that you are very busy, but this is a Holy request. I ask it knowing that others will learn of God from your efforts.”
“I want to help, Good Reverend,” responded Noway, tentatively. “I fear that my schedule may not provide enough time for such a commitment.”
“I understand,” said the priest. “It does come with a stipend of ten gold coins a week.”
Noway’s heart rate quickened. While not a greedy man, the additional gold would definitely help his family. “Of course,” said Noway. “I am honored that you consider my service to be of value.”
The priest relaxed, visibly. “Thank you, Noway,” he replied. “I will have the priest advocate contact you with a list of families.”
Noway nodded as the priest withdrew.
Later that evening, the family gathered for dinner. Noway looked around the table at his five children-two tall, ruddy, handsome sons-nearly men themselves, and three beautiful young daughters-all fair maidens, just approaching the flower of their youth. Noway smiled across the table at his wife-content in the blessing of his family. His wife knowingly smiled back, for in the quiet times when the children were drifting off to sleep, they often spoke to one another of their blessings.
“Father?” asked Jadis, his oldest daughter. “Can you help me with my studies tonight? I am having some trouble with one of the books the schoolmaster has given me to read.”
“Of course, my daughter,” replied Noway. “It will be my pleasure!”
Jadis smiled shyly. “Thank you, Father.” Noway nodded to his daughter lovingly.
As the dinner conversation wound down and the final dinner plate was being cleared from the table, there came a knocking at the front door. Noway opened the door to find the king’s messenger standing at attention, holding an opened scroll.
“How can I help you, good messenger?” asked Noway.
Reading from the scroll, the messenger proclaimed, “His excellency the king is requesting your urgent and immediate presence at a meeting of great importance to the kingdom. Your presence is voluntary, but highly coveted by His majesty.”
Noway knew that a meeting with the king was not to be dismissed lightly. Grabbing his cloak, he kissed his wife goodbye and hurried from the house.
Noway arrived at the castle and was rushed into a meeting with the king and his closest advisers. “Noway,” said the king. “We have a number of matters that we need to address in the kingdom. It is my wish that a citizen of the kingdom serves alongside my advisers so that we can know what the members of my kingdom think about such matters. You have been recommended by members of the citizenry as the right person to serve in this council.”
‘”Your majesty, I am humbled by your request.” Noway began. “I am not sure how I can create the time for such a serious responsibility.”
The king smiled. “Your wisdom would come with 15 gold coins a week. Would that sway your decision?”
Noway’s head began to spin. In one day, he had been offered the opportunity to increase his meager earnings by more than half. Haltingly, Noway responded, “I would be foolish to turn down such a generous offer, your Majesty.”
The King smiled. “It’s settled then. We will meet once a week in this council to discuss the affairs of the kingdom. I will have my steward make the arrangements. You may go.”
In a slight daze, Noway made his way to the carriage that had brought him to the castle. The king’s courier returned him home. Bursting through the door, he found his wife and children waited expectantly for news of the king’s summons. Telling the family of his news, they did not seem to share his excitement.
“What about your job?” asked his wife.
“What about our family dinners?” asked his oldest son.
“What about helping us with our school work?” asked Jadis.
Noway assured them that very little would change-that he would only miss dinner one night a week, and that he would still be available for all other family activities. He would work out his schedule to fit everything in.
His family looked unconvinced, but Noway was sure that he could honor all of his commitments…and they would have some extra money so that they could live more comfortably.
For the first couple of weeks, Noway was good to his word. His family noticed little change, save for the one night a week when he was meeting with the king’s advisers. But gradually, the extra work began to slip over into his family life. His meetings with school children kept him from getting all of his regular work done during the day, so he began bringing work home at night. Some of the families at the cathedral were unable to meet during the day, so Noway would meet them after work. And the meetings at the castle began to run quite long and delivered more work than Noway anticipated.
One night, Noway came home from his meeting with the king’s advisers well past midnight. His wife was waiting up for him.
“Noway, your schedule is out of control. You have missed four dinners this week, we hardly see you anymore, and you don’t even seem to enjoy going to Cathedral on Sunday with us anymore!” She stared evenly at Noway, awaiting his response.
Noway nodded wearily. “It’s hard to enjoy Cathedral when I see the same people on Sunday that I have been ministering to all week and they continue not to heed my advice. It no longer feels like ministry. It feels like work.”
Noway’s wife’s gaze softened as he continued. “And trying to help the school children is almost impossible. The things I try to teach them at school aren’t being reinforced at home, so there is no visible change in their behavior.”
Sinking down into his chair Noway sighed loudly and continued. “And the King’s advisory council seems like a waste of time. I think he only wants a citizen on the council so that it appears like the people have a voice. I don’t feel like my attendance there makes a bit of difference.”
Noway’s wife rested her hand gently on his shoulder. “It’s time to reclaim your life, Noway. You need to tell the priest and the schoolmaster and the king that you can’t serve them anymore.”
“But what about the gold?” asked Noway. “It has made our lives so much easier.”
“Noway, our blessings have never been tied to gold,” said his wife. Our blessings are asleep upstairs. Gold is temporary…our children are forever.”
Noway nodded. “I’m sure that the priest, the school master, and the king will be unhappy with me,” he said.
“But your wife and children will be very happy with you.” She gave her husband a hug.
Noway was right. The priest, the school master, and the king all tried to talk Noway out of his decision. They even offered him more gold. But he was resolute. He returned to his regular work schedule, prioritized his family again, and learned to say no when people made requests for his time that did not correspond to his own priorities.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
When others place THEIR demands on YOUR time, remember the hero in this story and tell them NO WAY!