This story has been retold countless times in countless ways over many centuries. It happened like this:

A traveler approached a great, walled city. Before entering the gates, he stopped to talk with an old man seated beneath a tree.

‘What are the people like in this city?” asked the traveler.

“How were the people from where you come?” wondered the man.

“A terrible lot,” grumbled the traveler.

“Mean, miserable, and detestable in all respects.”

“You will find them here the same,” responded the old man.

A second traveler soon happened by. He, too, was on his way to the great city and stopped to ask the old man about the people he would soon meet there.

The old man repeated the question he asked the first traveler. “How were the people from where you came?”

To this the second traveler answered, “They were fine people. Generous, kind, compassionate.”

“You will find them here the same,” observed the old man.


“Really listening and suspending one’s own judgment is necessary in order to understand other people on their own terms… This is a process that requires trust and builds trust.” ~ MARY FIELD BELENKY