late Peter Marshall was an eloquent speaker and for several years
served as the chaplain of the US Senate. He used to love to tell the
story of the Keeper of the Spring, a quiet forest dweller who lived
high above an Austrian village along the eastern slope of the Alps.
gentleman had been hired many years earlier by a young town
councilman to clear away the debris from the pools of water up in
the mountain crevices that fed the lovely spring flowing through
their town. With faithful, silent regularity, he patrolled the
hills, removed the leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt that
would otherwise have choked and contaminated the fresh flow of
water. The village soon became a popular attraction for vacationers.
Graceful swans floated along the crystal clear spring, the
mill wheels of various businesses located near the water turned day
and night, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and the view from
restaurants was picturesque beyond description.
One evening the town council met for its semi-annual meeting. As
they reviewed the budget, one man's eye caught the salary figure
being paid to the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of
the purse, "Who is the old man? Why do we keep him on year
after year? No one ever sees him. For all we know, the strange
ranger of the hills is doing us no good. He isn't necessary any
longer." By an unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old
weeks, nothing changed. By early autumn, the trees began to shed
their leaves. Small branches snapped of and fell into the pools,
hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon someone
noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A few days
later, the water was much darker.
Within another week, a slimy film
covered sections of the water along the banks, and a foul odor was
soon detected. The mill wheels moved more slowly, some finally
ground to a halt. Swans left, as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of
disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.
embarrassed council called a special meeting. Realizing their gross
error in judgment, they rehired the old keeper of the spring, and
within a few weeks, the veritable river of life began to clear up.
The wheels started to turn, and new life returned to the hamlet in
lives and our relationships are much like this--so much
what keeps us going and advancing is hidden from our sight,
working behind the scenes to keep our springs clear and
Just because we don't see the work that others
do in our lives,
that doesn't mean that their work isn't
important and useful
to us. By the same token, just
because our own work doesn't
shine for the entire world to
see, we shouldn't feel that what
we do isn't useful and
helpful. That conversation you had with
may just help her marriage, or may help him
to develop his
relationship with one of his children.
And we may
never know it. . . .