‘Meat’ and right it is to …

Here’s a parable from my friend Angela. Is it about meat, or shops, or something much more profound. Well, it’s a parable, isn’t it!

Many years ago there was a man who owned some land on which he kept animals for their meat. Although back then it would not have been classed as such, it was, as we would now call – an organically-run farm. His meat was so good that after a while he thought that he might as well open his own butcher’s shop, so he bought a shop situated right in the middle of the town. His reputation spread rapidly and soon his shop became so busy that he opened some smaller shops at either end of the town and one or two in the nearby villages.

The shops became more than a place to buy excellent quality meat, they also became places where people came together, caught up on the news and even exchanged favourite recipes. All went really well for several years until the big chain supermarkets began to open, suddenly, busy people could see the value of the time saved with being able to buy everything in one place and often cheaper, it’s true that the meat wasn’t the same quality, but it was easier to shop and cheaper to buy.

After a while the farmer was forced to lay off some staff and someone suggested that perhaps he ought not open all the shops every day. So he began to limit the opening hours of his shops, he worked tirelessly transporting meat to whichever shop was open that day. People began to say that the meat somehow didn’t seem quite so fresh after it was taken from shop to shop. Some said they didn’t feel that the quality was as good as it used to be. If the truth were known, he didn’t have so much time to take care of his animals and he had begun to take a few shortcuts.

After a while of this mad routine, out of exhaustion the butcher started to suggest to his customers that he might have to close some of his shops. There was immediate uproar, the people didn’t want to go to one of the other shops; their local one was much more friendly, they always met the same people there; it just wouldn’t be the same. So all the shops remained open for another year. Then came the day when the butcher’s auditor broke the news that he was broke, he was actually losing money having so many properties. He would have to sell.

Again his customers had no sympathy for the butcher, they could only think about the way the closing of their local shop would affect them. ‘I won’t be able to get there’ said one. ‘My husband and I used to go together to choose our meat for the week’, said another. ‘I meet most of my friends there’ said many others. Nobody seemed very bothered that the butcher was looking worn out.

There was nothing else for it – the butcher had to sell most of his premises. It took a while to get used to it, but suddenly people met folk that they hadn’t seen for years. Some came out of the villages with lists and bought meat to take back to those who were not so able to get out and about any more. The meat was fresher. One family bought one of the shops and turned it into a restaurant, they cooked and served others with the meat from the butchers, nobody could fail to feel satisfied after eating there. The butcher had more time to take greater care over his farming and his shop became once more a thriving place with the best meat around. Rumour has it that it is in fact becoming so popular that he may have to employ more staff and possibly open one more shop!

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