Allman had been walking for just a short while, heading towards wealth. The dirt road that he traveled on was winding and hilly. In places, it was covered in deep shadows by trees that towered above, making Allman feel as if he were in some kind of tunnel.
He continued walking through the day, stopping only a few times to rest. Late in the afternoon, he found himself climbing a long, steep hill. He had to stop several times to catch his breath, and for a time, he wondered if he would actually make it to the top, but he finally did.
When he did reach the top of the hill, he saw that he was at the top of an open ridge. He gasped at the view – it was unlike anything he had ever seen before from the tiny village of Average. But then, as he took it all in, he noticed a great city, far off. It must be the city of Wealth – but it was so much further than he had ever imagined it to be. His heart sank as he realized that he spent a whole day traveling only to discover that his goal was much further away than he had realized.
“You lookin’ at Wealth? It sure is a long way off, isn’t it?” a voice asked.
Allman turned to see who was speaking. It was rather scruffy looking man – short, thin, balding at the front but with long, gray hair that framed his face like an unruly halo. His clothes looked bleak – no real color at all, just gray, and covered with dust from the road. He wore a large backpack, carried a knapsack over one shoulder, and held a bent walking stick in his left hand.
“Hello,” Allman said. “I didn’t see you. Where did you come from?”
“I was just sitting under that dead tree over there,” the man responded, pointing. “I live up here on this ridge.”
“On the ridge?” Allman asked. “Where? Do you have a home here?”
“I live just in a cave just below the ridge line,” the man said. “Name’s Discouragement. Who are you? What are you doing up here?”
“My name’s Allman,” he replied. “I left my home in Average this morning. I am going to Wealth, where I will be able to make something out of my life!”
“Ugh. Don’t bother,” Discouragement said. “Can’t you see how far it is from here? You’ll never make it. Besides, look at you. Dressed the way you are? And coming from Average? They’ll never accept you there. You’ll end up in an alley starving, or going back home in disgrace.” He shook his head as if to demonstrate how futile Allman’s idea really was.
“Why would you say that?” Allman asked. “Have you been to wealth?”
Discouragement laughed. “Me? To Wealth? Why would I go there? Nope, not me. Years ago, I left my home in Complacent and hiked up here, just like you did. But then I got up here and saw how far off Wealth really was. I thought I’d go ahead and try, but just up the road a little ways, there’s a gully and the bridge is gone. There was no way I could get past it. So I came back here, and I just found a cave to live in, and I stayed. That’s what you should do too.”
Allman was crestfallen. He had started out with such dreams and aspirations. But now Discouragement was telling him not to even bother trying. He looked around and saw that the sun was sinking low in the sky. Now what would he do?
“Why don’t you spend the night with me?” Discouragement asked. “There’s room in my cave. You can rest for the night and then in the morning, why, you can find your own cave. Or you can head back to Average, whichever you please. There’s just no point in going on, though. You would never make it that far, and if you did, well, the chances that you would ever amount to anything are just…well…it just won’t happen. Trust me. I’m sure you’re a good person, but Wealth – that’s not for people like you and me.” He turned and started to walk back down the path, motioning for Allman to follow him. “C’mon, let’s get inside before it rains or something worse.”
With a heavy heart, Allman followed Discouragement.