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The Emperor's Seed

Rewritten by Chana Klein (original author unknown)

Have you ever been in a situation in which a lie sounded better than the truth? Let's say you make a mistake in your work and it will make you look bad if someone knows. What would you do? Would you hide the truth? What's the best course of action in a situation like that?

It was the custom in the Far East, when an emperor grew old, to chose his successor from among his own children or his assistants. But long ago as one emperor was getting on in age, he decided to use a very unusual way of appointing his successor. He didn't have any children and he did not want to choose one of his assistants. Instead, he called together all of the children in the kingdom.

The children showed up on the announced date. The emperor's aids directed them to sit in their spots on the floor and to wait quietly for the emperor to arrive.

Slowly, the emperor entered the room, his royal robe flowing, as all of the children sat on the floor. He announced, "It's time for me to step down and choose the next emperor," he told them in his deep, baritone voice. "I have decided to choose one of you."

The kids stared at the emperor starry eyed with mouths gaping open.

The emperor continued. "I am going to give each one of you a seed today. It is a special seed. You will each get just one. I want each of you to plant the seed, and water it and take care of it. Then in one year from today, you are to come back here with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring. The one I choose will be the next emperor!"

Ling was one of the boys who like the others, received a seed. He got home from the gathering with the old emperor and ran excitedly into the house.

His mother was in the kitchen. "Mama, Mama, Mama;" he jumped up and down as he spoke. "Mama, the emperor is choosing a boy from the village to be the next emperor. Ling was breathless, "It could be me or one of the boys in school. I have to plant this seed. Look mama, look, the seed that the emperor gave me!"

Ling's mother helped him get a pot and planting soil.

"Mama, I must plant the seed myself." And Ling very carefully planted the seed and watered it gently."

Ling put the pot with the seed in it in front of a sunny window and he watered his seed when it got dry and every day he watched to see if it had grown. After about 3 weeks, some of the other children began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew....

Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by...

Still nothing!

He went to school and heard Po talking about the beautiful leaves on his plant. Then, Mu Shu said that the roots of his plant were so big by now that he had to replant it in another pot. Almost all of the other children were talking about their plants. But Ling didn't have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by; Still nothing in Ling's pot.

"I just know that I killed it, he told himself, I killed that seed when I planted it! Everyone else has trees and tall plants. They look so beautiful. And me, I have nothing!"

And then... "I won't say anything to anyone about my plant. Maybe it will grow soon."

And Ling said nothing to his friends. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.

The year was up. On the chosen day, all the children of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. But Ling cried to his mother, "I'm NOT going to take an empty pot!"

"Ling darling," his mother put her hand on his shoulder, "You must be honest about what happened.

Ling felt sick to his stomach, he wanted to throw up but he knew his Mother was right. So, he took his empty pot to the palace.

Ling arrived holding his empty pot in front of his small chest. He was stunned as he looked around at the array of plants grown by the other children. They were beautiful-in all shapes and sizes. Ling's face was burning with shame. He put his empty pot on the floor only to notice that several of the other children were laughing at him. A few were kinder and felt sorry for him and said, "Hey, nice try."

Ling sat himself in the back hoping not to be noticed. The emperor arrived looking even larger than he did at the meeting one year ago. He walked through the huge room studying the children and their plants as he greeted them. When the emperor got near him, Ling tried to hide, "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the emperor. "Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!"

And then the emperor had an excited expression on his face as he spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. Bring that boy with the empty pot to the front." He commanded. Ling's teeth were chattering. He was terrified. "The emperor knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!"

Ling doesn't know how his legs got him to the front of the room.

"What is your name, young man?" the Emperor asked.

"My name is Ling," he managed to say as his hands were drenched with sweat and he felt like he wanted to throw up. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him.

"Quiet down everyone," the emperor commanded.

He smiled as he looked at Ling, and he announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!" Ling couldn't believe it. "Did I hear wrong? I couldn't even grow my seed. Is this a joke? How could I be the new emperor?"

Then, the emperor explained, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But what you did not know is that I gave you all boiled seeds, which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you.

"Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"

I ask you, the reader of this story: What would YOU have done with the emperor's seed?

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