Maybe it is because I spend so much of my life either worried about what other people think about me or trying to act like I’m not worried about what other people think about me that makes this story about a “man who didn’t care” seem like such a fairy tale. Again, the story simply is a vehicle to drive home the point, but it is a decent story to tell.
Walter is a man who didn’t care what anyone said about him. The only opinion that mattered to him was the opinion of the king. Walter is tempted to act dishonestly and eventually framed for a crime but he continues to care about the kings words alone.
We get so wrapped up in what other people say about us that we forget that it is what God says about us that matters most.
Tonight I want to tell you a story, well, it’s a fairy tale really called “The man who didn’t care.” It begins as all good stories do with once upon a time…
Once upon a time in a land full of dragons and knights and castles and forests and ogres and kings there lived a man who didn’t care. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about his family in fact he loved them very much. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about other people he had many close friends and was always trying to help people he didn’t even know. It wasn’t even that he didn’t care about the state of the world because he was actively involved in trying to make the world in which he lived a better place. This man who didn’t care was different from everyone else in one special way and that difference caused everyone to look on him with a mixture of confusion and wonder. You see what was so different about this man was that he didn’t care what other people thought of him.
I guess to say that he didn’t care what people thought of him isn’t one hundred percent accurate. He cared a great deal what one person thought of him and that person was his King. In all of the world the only opinion that mattered to this man who didn’t care was that of his king and his king was pleased with him.
Each morning the man who didn’t care would enter into the throne room of the king and humbly bow before him. Each morning the king would say, “Walter,” for that was the name of the man who didn’t care, “Walter, I like you, in fact, more than that I call you my friend. Whatever happens today, whatever anyone does to you, and whatever you do don’t forget that you are a friend of the king.”
With that blessing Walter would go out and face his day. Everyday was different for Walter because as a man who doesn’t care he was in great demand. People would come to him with their problems and ask him to settle their disputes. As a man who didn’t care Walter wasn’t swayed by the parties on either side. He didn’t feel like he need to make one side or the other like him and he didn’t feel the need to get one someone’s good side. He simply looked at the facts and made a decision.
People who had been mistreated would also come to Walter. As we went with them to right some injustice or another the people would always say something like, “the man who wronged me is very powerful and popular. I haven’t been able to find anyone willing to help me because they are all afraid of being on his bad side. Why aren’t you afraid.”
And Walter would always answer, “I am a friend of the King. Why does it matter to me that this person or that person is upset with me. I do what is right and I will let other people’s opinions of me work themselves out.”
Well as you can imagine people were in awe of Walter’s oddity. People would come from miles around to see if the stories were really true. They would ask the local townspeople questions about him.
“Is there really a man who doesn’t care what anyone, save the king, thinks about him?”
“Yes, we can hardly believe it either, but it is true”
“Such a man must be arrogant and very prideful”
“No, he has no need for arrogance for arrogance is thinking you are better than others. He doesn’t rank himself”
“Then he must be weak and scared groveling at the feet of everyone”
“Oh no, in fact he is one of the bravest men in our city. He doesn’t have to fear anyone because he says, “he is a friend of the king.””
“So he Lords his friendship with the king over everyone using that to get special favors and demanding to be treated better?”
“Not at all, he actually invites everyone he meets to come and meet the King. According to Walter the King wants to be friends with all of us.”
“The king wants to be friends with all of us? What kind of a fool are you?”
“I didn’t say that I believed it. I only said that is what Walter tells everyone.”
This same conversation or one very similar to it would play out in various places around the city and as the story grew and more people came to see “The man who doesn’t care” the townsfolk could answer most tourists questions before they even asked.
One day a baron from a distant land came to see Walter’s king.
“Your highness,” the Baron said, “I have heard about this strange man that you have in your service, this man who doesn’t care what other people thinks about him.”
“He knows what I think about him, and that is enough,” the king replied.
“Yes, I have heard wonderful things about him, but I don’t think a man could really be this good. I would like to test him and see if this is all just an act.”
“Test all you want,” the king said, “but Walter knows that I care about him, and for him that is enough.”
“Sure it is,” the Baron said his voice dripping with sarcasm
“What is this test that you propose,” the king asked, “for I know the truth of Walter’s heart, but perhaps teaching that truth to you would help you to see the world through new eyes.”
“Living here it is easy for Walter to live this way. He has friends and he has you close. I ask that you send him to live with me and my men for the summer. We will be hunting in the north and will be traveling around camping and following the game. Let him come and live with us and grow accustom to us. Let him make friends among my men and let him grow close to me. In two months you are to send him a messenger who will tell him to pick up a present from one of the outer Dukes and bring it back here to you. I will go with him on that quest and I will test to see if he truly is a man who doesn’t care.”
“You have thought about this for a long time, I see.” Said the king, “instead of testing Walter would you not rather examine why his lack of caring causes you so much pain.”
“Are you now trying to back out of our deal, O great King?”
“No, I am only trying to help you. I will call for Walter immediately.”
So the King called for Walter and as he waited for Walter to come he wrote this letter:
I am sending you with this man because I believe that he can learn a great deal for you. You will not see me for a while, but don’t ever forget that my feelings for you will never change. I like you, Walter; in fact, more than that, I call you my friend. Whatever happens today, whatever anyone does to you, and whatever you do don’t forget that you are a friend of the King. Read this letter each and every day and know that the truth of these words will never fade.
So Walter took the Kings letter and went to live with the Baron and his men. The Barons men didn’t always understand Walter. He seemed to look at the world differently than most people, and there were times when his wouldn’t budge from what he believed to be right no matter how the others goaded him was annoying, but for the most part the men liked him. The Baron too found it hard not to like Walter. He wasn’t servile and cringing like most of the rest of his men. And Walter was always honest with what he felt and what he believed. When the 2 months were finished and the King’s messenger came the Baron still hadn’t seen one thing to convince him that Walter wasn’t exactly who he said he was.
For Walter’s part he spent his 2 months among the Barons men enjoying himself. Each morning he would read the King’s letter and then go out and hunt with the men. It was a great time for him and he was glad to call the Baron and his men friends. When he received the message from the King he was sad to leave and told the others so.
The Baron said, “no need to be upset just yet for I will be going with you to the Duke’s and will accompany you all the way back to your home. A few of the men will go along as well for I will need company on the road back.”
So Walter was happy and they all set out for the Duke’s home the next morning. Once they arrived the Baron had arranged to have a chest of gold waiting for them. It was this chest that Walter was to present to the King. The party stayed with the Duke for a night and then headed off to see the King.
As they journeyed the Baron began his test. The first thing he did was look for something that Walter was doing wrong. After a few hours of searching he noticed that Walter was holding the reins to his horse in a way that was sufficient, but not the best. Pointing this out to some of his men he began to laugh. “Look at the way you are holding your reigns. You look like such a plowboy. And here we though that we were turning you into a real warrior in your time with us.” The rest of the men joined in on the joke and began to laugh as well.
The Baron expected Walter to get embarrassed or angry. He knew that if someone had made a similar statement to himself or any of the other men they would have quickly found a way to try and justify their way of holding the reigns.
But Walter looked neither angry or embarrassed and his voice was light and conversational when he said, “Now that you mention it I believe that your way is better. Thank you for pointing it out to me.” With that he changed his grip on the reigns to match that of the Baron’s. “yes, that is better, thanks.” Walter said and continued riding.
The Baron was surprised at this, but he still had other tests, he winked at one of his men who took his signal and rode up beside of Walter. The man opened the chest of gold coins that Walter had tied to the side of his saddle and pulled out a handful of coins. “I don’t reckon the King will miss a few of these,” he said, “let’s take some, you know, for our trouble,” The other men in the group held their hands out and he threw them some coins. Even the Baron took his share of the small pieces of gold.
But Walter stopped his horse and said evenly, “You will have to put those back.”
“I say,” said Walter, “Now put them back,”
“come on Walter, it is only a few coins. You know how much me and the boys need a little extra cash. I thought you were our friend. And it’s not like you aren’t going to get a piece too. Just keep your mouth shut and all of us will come out of this trip a little richer.”
“Put the coins back,” Walter said looking each of them in turn, “this is your last warning,”
“Our last warning,” the man shot back, “what are you going to do fight all of us. I really thought that you were part of us, but it looks like you really are just a dumb lacky of a dumber King after all.”
With that Walter pulled his sword from its sheath and readied it for a charge. The man who had started this whole thing looked at the Baron who shrugged and nodded his head. The men all grudgingly returned their coins to the chest. The first man to take the coins was the last to replace his and he spent an extra moment fiddling with the chest before he drew his own horse away. Walter made him open his hands and roll up his sleeves before being satisfied that the man hadn’t taken any coins.
Again the Baron was impressed at the strength of Walter’s opinion of himself. Even when the men stopped talking to him and gave him dirty looks and muttered at him under his breath he never once wavered in his belief in what was right. Walter even tried to engage the other men attempting to rebuild some of the broken friendships, but when his attempts fell on deaf ears he looked sad, but not unsure of himself.
The Baron was impressed, but he wasn’t finished. He was sure that his final test would show Walter’s true colors. You see when the last man had placed his coins into the chest on Walter’s saddle he small section from the bottom of the chest. As Walter rode and the chest bounced on the saddle a few coins would drop out every few minutes. The coins fell out very slowly and Walter never noticed them falling softly to the dirt path among the sound of the men and horses.
When they were just outside of the King’s city the Baron called them to a halt and said, “Walter since you so diligently fought to preserve this treasure it is only fitting that you enter into the King’s presence carrying it.” With that the Baron reach out to Walter’s saddle and acted like he was lifting the bag. When he lifted the chest he cried out in alarm, “The gold is all gone.” He said trying his best to act surprised.
Walter jumped from his horse and inspected the chest. He found the hole in the bottom and figured out where the coins had gone. He asked if anyone had see the falling coins, but the Baron took over the conversation.
“Listen, boy, this doesn’t have to be as bad as it seems. You have messed up and messed up big, but the King doesn’t ever need to no about it. He will be furious with you when he finds out that you have lost all of his gold and that special ‘friendship’ that the two of you have will be broken. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I am willing to say that we were robbed, and I know I can get my guys to say the same thing.”
“I won’t lie” Walter said.
“But if you don’t you are going to lose the one thing you value most, your King.”
“If you believe that then you don’t understand at all,” Walter said softly.
“Come and face it,” the Baron said, “You messed up, you lost the Kings gold and now you are going to get in trouble if you don’t come up with some sort of an excuse.”
Walter just looked at the Baron and shook his head, “That’s where you are wrong,” he said, “I messed up. I lost the gold, but I know that the way the King feels about me will not change. You see the way that he feels about me isn’t based on what I do. It is based on his choosing to care about me.”
With that Walter climbed back on his horse and began to ride into the city. “Now I am going to ride and see my King and let him know how I have messed up. I am not happy to have failed him, I want to always do my best for him, but I am not afraid. I am a friend of the King. And if you would come and ask Him I am sure he wants to be your friend too.”
The Baron and his men didn’t know what to do they simply stood there with their mouths open staring at the strangest man they had ever seen. As they turned their horses to leave they each tried to make fun of Walter, “Who would want to be that good all the time,” they said, and “He’s just fooling himself if he thinks that the King will still like him after he lost all that gold.” They said these things and others as they tried to convince themselves that their way was the right way. But although they would never say it each of them left that day wanting two things. More than anything they wanted to be a friend of the King and like Walter they each wanted to be a man who didn’t care.