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#SourdoughSeptember Day 24

This is a classic story which I have heard in different forms from several different sources.  It is often (but by no means always!) called a Sufi Wisdom Story. Wherever it is from it’s a great tale and this is my take on it.


The Greedy Baker

In a corner of the old market, squeezed in between the fabric sellers and the spice merchants, you will find a tiny bakery.  This bakery isn’t much to look at, especially in comparison with its more colourful neighbors, and inside there is barely room to swing a baguette but it does have one unique selling point. 
Very early each morning the baker arrives, lights the fire in the oven and begins to prepare that day’s bake.  As the loaves, rolls and pastries take shape under his skilled hands a cacophony of beautiful smells begin to emerge into the early morning light.
It’s no surprise that these aromas have become famous among the marketgoers and people will regularly pause from their shopping to enjoy them.  At first the baker didn’t mind this as it brought him some good publicity but after a while he got fed up with people coming to his bakery but not spending any money so he decided to do something about it.
Out of all the people he saw through his little shop window every day there was one man who particularly attracted his anger.  At about a quarter to eight each morning a little old man in a brown waistcoat would come and perch on the bench outside the fabric seller’s shop, pull out a flask of tea, and sit there for an hour or so enjoying the sights, sounds and in particular the smells of the market.
One morning the baker decided that he’d had about enough of all these people freely helping themselves to the fruit of his hard work so when the little old man in the brown waistcoat arrived he stormed out to confront him.  He demanded payment from the old man for the services he had provided and threatened to take him to court if he didn’t pay up.
By now a crowd had begun to gather, eager to see what would happen next.  The old man was clearly shaken up and began to protest that this was unfair, that he had no money and that it was his own choice where to sit and drink his tea but the baker was having none of it.  The argument went back and forth for a while and the crowd grew bigger and bigger until a priest stepped out of the mass of people and stood between the two men.
He asked the baker to explain his side of the story and listened carefully as he told of all the early starts, the demanding work and the money he felt he’d lost to people taking advantage of his efforts.  The priest then asked the old man to respond and again listened as he told the gathered crowd of how the smell of freshly baked bread reminded him of his wife who had recently passed away.  There was barely a dry eye to be seen when he finished telling them how that hour spent on that bench each morning was the time he allowed himself to sit and remember her.
When the old man had finished the priest thanked them both and sat down to think.  The crowd pushed in closer to hear what he would say.
Eventually he stood up, faced the baker, and asked him how much he thought the old man owed him for the smell of the bread.  The baker’s eyes lit up as he thought the priest had sided with him after all so he said that a loaf of bread cost £3 and it was only fair that the old man payed that, given how often he had sat outside the bakery.
The crowd gasped as the priest turned to the old man and asked him to take out three pound coins.  Surely he wouldn’t make the old man pay? What sort of precedent would that set for the baker?
The priest turned back to the baker, showed him the coins and asked whether he was happy that these coins were suitable payment for the smells the old man had enjoyed.  The baker agreed and held out his hand for the money but instead of giving them to him the priest dropped the coins one by one onto the hard metal bench.  Again he turned to the baker and asked if he had heard the three coins fall.  The baker said that he had so the priest picked the coins back up, gave them to the old man and turned back to the baker.
“You have been paid in full.  The sound of the coins for the aroma of the bread.  If you wish to receive more you must give more away.”
The crowds erupted with cheers as the baker slunk back into his shop.  From that day to this he has never complained about people pausing outside his shop to smell the beautiful bread and over time the bakery has become more popular than ever before.
The End


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