Many years ago when a person who owed money could be thrown into jail, a merchant in London had the misfortune to owe a huge sum to a money lender. The money lender, who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant’s beautiful teenage daughter. He proposed a bargain. He said he would cancel the merchant’s debt if he could have the girl instead.
Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified at the proposal. So the cunning money lender proposed that they let Providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty moneybag and then the girl would have to pick out one of the pebbles. If she chose the black pebble she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be cancelled. If she chose the white pebble she would stay with her father and the debt would still be cancelled. But if she refused to pick out a pebble her father would be thrown into jail and she would starve.
Reluctantly the merchant agreed. They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the merchant’s garden as they talked and the moneylender stooped down to pick up the two pebbles. As he picked up the pebbles the girl, sharp eyed with fright, noticed that he picked up two black pebbles and put them into the moneybag. He then asked the girl to pick out the pebble that was to decide her fate and that of her father.
Imagine that you are standing on that path in the merchant’s garden. What would you have done if you had been the unfortunate girl?
-from Lateral Thinking by Edward DeBono