An old man stood behind bars expressionless. He had spent a lifetime here. He had seen each of his children take up their place behind these same bars and he was helpless to stop them.
One day, a visitor, a young man, arrived and stopped in front of the old man’s cell.
‘You look like you have been here a very long time.’
The old man took a step forward and came close up to the bars.
‘I can’t remember when I came in, but I do know I have been here for a lifetime. I suggest you leave this place before you meet your jailer.’
‘I only came here to visit.’
‘We all come to visit,’ said the old man ‘but very few ever leave.’
‘When do you get out?’ asked the young man
‘Ah… when…’ Replied the old man.
‘When is what happened on my visit so many years ago. Once I was like you, I was young and full of ambition and wanted to achieve great things. Then one day, I found myself trapped here. I suggest you leave before the same thing happens to you.’
The young man laughed nervously.
‘I’ve done nothing wrong, old man. I’ll not end up behind bars.’
‘I am warning you to leave now, while you can.’
The young man grew frustrated with the old man.
‘I will leave here when I am good and ready!’
The old man repeated:
‘Ah, your jailer approaches,’ which frustrated the young man even more.
‘You are a fool, old man. There is no jailer here.’
‘Young man, the jailer here cannot be seen, cannot be touched. In fact, many things here are not as they seem.’
The old man reached out and grabbed the collar of the young man and slowly pulled him through the bars until they were standing side by side.
‘You see… even the bars you cannot touch,’ said the old man.
The young man was shaken and made a lunge forward and passed back through the bars to where he had been standing a few moments ago.
‘You’re mad’ old man, mad. You stay behind bars that are shadows.’
The old man reached out and again dragged the young man back to stand beside him.
‘Let go of me,’ the young man cried out. The old man tightened his grip and then reached for a tin cup, which he rattled on the prison bars.
Shadows are they.
The young man, now terrified at being trapped in prison, struggled free and pushed through the bars once again, leaving the old man on the other side.
He turned back towards the old man. ‘How is this possible, how can the bars be steel for you and yet I can pass through them?’
The young man was now excited at the thought of being able to pass through metal bars that others could not. He started to imagine himself as a great magician’ showing off his wonderful powers to others.
‘What are you thinking?’ asked the old man
‘I think when I leave here, I am going to be a great magician.’
‘Ah… your jailer approaches.’
‘You are a fool old man. I don’t know why you cannot pass easily through the bars as I can.’
The old man smiled and said ‘Maybe I have given you special powers.’
‘Yes, I think you have, and I am grateful. When I get out of here, I will return to help you.’
‘Ah… your jailer approaches’ repeated the old man.
‘I’ve have had enough of this,’ said the young man.
‘When I get out of here, I am going to be a great magician. When I am a great magician, I will make lots of money; when I make lots of money, I will live wherever in the world I want. When I have achieved these things, I will be the happiest man in the world.’
‘Your jailer has arrived,’ said the old man.
The young man now furious, turned to leave and as he did, prison bars blocked his way. He laughed and waved to the old man.
The young man lunged forward to pass through the bars but they were solid, and he could not leave.
He turned to the old man and asked.
‘What is going on, why can’t I leave?’
The old man ignored the young man, which angered him even more.
‘Old Man!’ he yells. ‘What is your name?’
The old man looked across into the young man’s prison cell.
‘My name is when.. and I am your jailer.’
Beware the prison bars of when. This small word has the power to imprison you and steal from you all that could have or might have been.
The word WHEN pushes everything forward. The word when takes things that are within your grasp and pushes them just out of reach. Most people will go through their entire life using the word when as part of the sentence they use to tell you what they want to experience in their life.
Do not let when eat away at your lifetime.
Time is the only true resource you have at your command, do not use it when, but use it now.
The prison bars of when is a story taken from my book: The Billionaire and the Backpacker