An old forest dweller lived high above a quaint little Austrian village along the eastern slope of the Alps. He had been hired by a young councilman to clear away the debris from the pools of water up in the mountain crevices that fed the lovely spring flowing through their village. With faithful, silent regularity, he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt that would otherwise have choked and contamited the fresh flow of water.
The village soon became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal clear spring, the mill wheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, farmlands were turally irrigated, and the view from cafes was picturesque beyond description.
Years passed. One evening the council met for its semiannual meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary figure being paid to the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of the purse, “Who is this old man? Why do we keep him on year after year? No one ever sees him. For all we know, the strange ranger of the hills is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer.”
By a unimous vote, they dispensed with the old man’s services. For several weeks, nothing changed.
By early autumn, the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches spped of and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A few days later, the water was much darker.
Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks, and a foul odor was soon detected. The mill wheels moved more slowly, some filly ground to a halt. Swans left, as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.
Quickly, the embarrassed council called a special meeting. Realizing their gross error in judgment, they rehired the old keeper of the spring. Within a few weeks, the veritable river of life began to clear up. The wheels started to turn, and new life returned to the hamlet in the Alps.
Through this ‘Keeper of the Spring’ story, motivatiol speaker Peter Marshall used to drive home the moral — never become discouraged with the seeming smallness of your task, job or life. Never stop believing that what you can do will make a difference.
Marshall would then quote Edward Everett Hale: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.”