By Cynthia Simmons
Driving to work one morning, I heard someone on National Public Radio talk about Stone Soup — one of my favorite children’s books. She was a consultant for executives attending the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
That made total sense to me. Because… Stone Soup is the story of three soldiers returning home from a war, trudging on foot across unfamiliar territory, and stopping to stay the night in a town where they are not welcome. They try to persuade someone to sell or give them food. Apparently there is no extra food in that town, not for those three soldiers.
The magic of the story is that the soldiers had carried a big empty kettle with them, and when there was no supper to be had, they fill the kettle with water from the river, light a fire, and then place stones in the boiling water to give it flavor.
Someone becomes curious at the sight of the soldiers sitting around their fire with their kettle full of boiling water. Someone comes up and asks, “What are you cooking?” The answer is “Stone soup.”
Then the question, “Well, may I have some?”
The response, “Well, yes, of course you can have some. It’s not quite ready. But it would be even better if we could add a potato or two.”
And the response to the response, “I have some potatoes for the soup.”
The rest of the story continues predictably with the questions and the answers, as people from the town become curious and find themselves offering to contribute to the soup. With the individual contributions the soup becomes a feast.
The lessons are, “People who are not interested in helping you in your job search may decide to help when you share a common interest.” and “Think carefully about how you approach strangers for help.”
(The version of Stone Soup that I know was written and illustrated by Marcia Brown. I first read it many years ago.)
Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.
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