Once upon a time, there was a village named Egoville hidden away in the mountains. Now, this village, like most villages, had their own idiot. His name was Hugh Millety.
Hugh, the village idiot, was the ridicule of Egoville. The townsfolk would often set him up with silly choices in order to laugh mercilessly at him when he made the wrong choice.
“Hugh,” they’d say, “would you rather have this shiny new quarter or this dirty old torn dollar bill?”
“I’d like the shiny quarter,” Hugh would reply. His tormentor would give him the quarter and walk away laughing, declaring Hugh a true village idiot. Hugh would just shrug and go about his business.
Even though it was a poor village with little opportunity, this was repeated several times a day by many people.
As the years went by, the ridicule became a ritual that dozens of townies took part in.
The townsfolk had little to their names, but at least they could feel better about themselves in comparison to the village idiot this way. It was their small comfort in the lap of poverty.
Not everyone would make fun of Hugh though. A few felt sorry for him and gave him hand-me-down clothes, leftover food, and even an old shack to live in at the edge of town. Hugh lived off of the handouts of the charitable few.
One day, Hugh showed up at the village square wearing a brand new suit. Everyone was amazed, for few people in the town could afford new clothing, let alone a nice suit.
The small village didn’t even have a new clothing store, only a used clothing store. One of townsfolk asked Hugh where he got his new suit, thinking he must have stolen it.
He bought it, he told them. And furthermore he added, the fine new house being built on the mountainside that everyone was wondering about, that was his.
When questioned where he got the money, he told them it was the money they gave him.
With people giving him food, clothing, and shelter, he simply saved and invested everything they gave him. “I may be your village idiot,” he smiled and said, “but I’m no fool.” But why then, they asked, did he always take the lesser amount of money they offered him if he was so cunning?
Hugh replied that if he had taken the greater amount of money, they would have stopped offering it to him. He earned his money by letting them laugh at him, but he knew the first time he took the greater amount they’d stop offering him money and find something else to laugh at him about.
“Now,” said Hugh, “I’m the richest person in town and have all the money I need. I didn’t waste money amusing myself at the expense of someone I falsely perceived to be a lesser person.
And you, all of you, have little more now than you had when you started ridiculing me. So tell me, who is the village idiot now?”
Hugh smiled again, then handed out hundred dollar bills to those who had been kind to him.
The townsfolk were shocked. It was true though, they had frittered away their money a little at a time, trying to make themselves feel big by comparison to the village idiot.
It just goes to show you, if you live in Egoville, take care not to become the village idiot by your vain perceptions.
On the other hand, if you follow the wisdom of Hugh Millety, you might just become the richest person in town.