The bow felt strange in Anatoli’s hands. The arrow refused to line up against the string. He tried twice to lift the loaded weapon before him but each time the arrow slipped out of place. Exasperated he turned a pleading expression to his tutor.
“You have been shown time enough. You must do as I have told until you master it.” The wizened face of the instructor bore the expression of one who had seen it all too many times before. He had interminable patience for the task.
Anatoli fiddled with the arrow and string again. Lined up the shaft and slowly lifted the bow before him. The arrow slipped and Anatoli cursed under his breath. When he turned to see his instructor the man was busy watching a bird fly to its nest in a nearby tree. The youth returned to his morning task.
This was now the third day since he had arrived. He was given modest quarters near the stables, befitting a junior employee. Since then he had not seen the master at all, but had been placed under a number of men whose task it was to fit him for his career. Why in the world archery was included in the lessons Anatoli could not understand. And why the lessons began at dawn was also a mystery. Possibly it was that the days were already so full. He had to brush the horses, tend the plant nursery, work in the store room and study numbers, all at different times of the day.
Anatoli finally let the arrow fly, if fly be an accurate description. The shaft wobbled its way forward like a wounded animal and fell lifeless to the ground mockingly close at hand.
Just then the master approached on horse back. He was dressed for business in some nearby town and came to pass a quick greeting.
“How is it going, lad?” He asked as his dismounted, but his gaze went to the old instructor who took the reins and flashed a glance heavenward as if to say, “This is a hopeless cause.”
“Are you getting the hang of it?” The master asked with energy.
“What a stupid thing it is!” Anatoli let burst. “I cannot for the life of me see why a wealthy man must learn to shoot an arrow!”
“There are many things you will not see, lad. Many, many things. Some you will feel, some you will never understand. Some you will miss so completely you will go to the grave in ignorance of them. Yours is not always to SEE but to learn the lessons in the doing.”
The master took the bow from Anatoli, fixed a shaft against it and let it fly heavenward in a glorious sunlit arch. “It is as simple as that.”
The lad shook his head.
“The lesson here,” the master confided, “is not to become an archer, but to become familiar. This bow is an unfamiliar thing to you. The arrow is the same. But in time both will be your friends and companions.” He handed Anatoli the bow.
“In time many things will become your friends. Numbers and ships and lands and lenders. Houses and servants and bags of coin. They cannot be your friend while you are a stranger to them. Handle these things and make them your friend, for you shall want them at your side for many years to come. The bow is a friend I wish to introduce to you. Be kind to him. Get to know him. He may one day save your life.”
With that the master swung upon his steed, nodded and galloped away.
Anatoli watched him ride off then looked at the huge curved wood in his hand. He stroked it for a moment then plucked the string. “Good morning, my new friend.” He spoke to himself. Then taking his stance and drawing an arrow he tried yet again to become acquainted with the bow.
* This is excerpted from a story by Chris Field (Copyright CGF) and shows the attitude we need to have toward new challenges. Many of the things we struggle to learn are to be viewed as our “friends” and the process is simply that of getting acquainted.
Most of us remember our school days when new skills seemed impossible to master. Now, in our adult years, those skills are just an everyday part of our lives.
So, have a look around at the “friends” you need to get to know. Approach those skills and the drill and practice sessions as a simple matter of getting acquainted and expanding your set of “friends”.