There was once a village that settled around the largest source of water in the territory. To protect their source, a deep and wide well was built. To watch over it, a family of tenders was tasked. The tenders had one sacred law: never drop stones into the well.
Over time, the village prospered. As it grew, more and more water was drawn from the well. Some, like the farmers, required more water than most, and late at night after a long day and the well ran low, bargains were made with tenders to walk away for a while. The following morning, there was still plenty of water for all, or so it seemed.
Droughts did occur on occasion, and when this happened, water was borrowed from neighboring villages, but most of the time the village shared their well water with others since their source was the most plentiful. Then one day, the villagers started to notice that it was taking longer to draw their water from the well and began to complain. The tenders also noticed the level of the water in the well wasn’t replenishing as it used to. All of this was taken to the village leader.
Upon investigation of the complaints, something terrible was discovered. Whenever the farmers would take extra water, the farmers would drop stones into the well to raise the water level. And after the farmers would leave, villagers would sneak back to the well before the tender returned, taking more water for themselves and also dropping in a few stones as they had seen the farmers do. And in spite of the water lent in times of drought, the neighboring villages claimed they had no water to spare for the village well.
In a private meeting, the eldest tender met with the village leader to discuss their options. It was then that the tender revealed a secret remembered only by the tenders: if too many stones were in the well, the path to refilling it might be blocked forever. When the village leader asked what needed to be done, the tender confessed that they needed to either carefully remove all the stones one at a time to prevent further blockage or begin digging a new well in case the old one stopped filling.
Remove all the stones? Dig a new well? Such things took too much time, and the village leader knew little about water levels and stones and wells. After a time, he decided to go with the only thing that had ever worked, but he rationalized that if a little was good, a lot must be better. There was only one solution that made sense.
“Drop a couple of boulders into the well,” the village leader ordered. “If we’re lucky, they’ll crush the smaller stones, raise the level, and keep the water flowing for everyone.”
Orignal From: “Never Drop Stones Into the Well” (a parable)