This story won’t be new to anyone who has read the 1890 elementary textbook, Catholic National Reader, Book Four, but since that number of people may not be very great in 2013, I want to share a charming, poignant story about two people named Can and Could. I took some liberties for brevity.
Could held himself in great esteem, and was always dreaming. “If I were rich, I could…” He felt blessed with a benevolent disposition, and in his imagination he thought of a great many projects for doing good on a grand scale. Can was a simple young woman, not great or so well-dressed. She went about her life neither sauntering nor scheming far into the future. She scarcely knew what a project was.
One day Could was riding a crowded bus and the conductor inquired if any of the gentlemen would like to give up his seat. A sick man wanted to ride the bus and it was very cold outside. “Like!” thought Could with a laugh. “Who would like to be outside in this cold?” And so Could stayed in his warm seat and thought of new laws he might pass to improve the transportation system. No one should have to walk sick in the cold.
On the same day Can, having finished her chores, entered a store to buy something to eat. Inside there was a child carrying a basket much too heavy for her small frame, and the shawl that she wore was fallen from her shoulders and dragged in the muddy snow. “What happened to your shawl?” Can asked. The little girl said her mother was too ill to go to the store, so she sent her daughter instead. The girl could not hold up her shawl to keep warm lest she drop the basket. “You’ll die from the cold,” said Can. Then Can tied up the shawl, helped the girl sell the items in the basket, and walked with her back to her home where she made the sick mother’s bed.
That night Could feel asleep in his arm chair by the fire in his comfortable home reflecting on all the acts of justice his new laws would bring, while Can cooked a stew so she might return to check on the poor family the next day. The moral of the story? Of all the ills that human kind endure, small is the part which laws and kings can cure.