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Shimon ben Yosef was a porter of Bethany. He owned several donkeys, and on their backs carried to the market in Jerusalem his produce, and the produce of those of his neighbors with whom he was currently on speaking terms.

The strangers approached Shimon at his work. “Our Master needs this donkey. He will ride him to the city.”

Ordinarily Shimon would have responded to this request with obscenities. But it was pilgrimage season, his most lucrative time of year, and he was feeling almost generous.

“Your master doesn’t want this donkey, trust me.”

“Has anyone ever ridden him? We were told to look for a donkey that had never been ridden.”

“Fuckin a, he’s never been ridden! This colt here, he’s mean. I’m the only one who can get near him, and that’s only because he know how hard I’ll beat him if he pulls any shit on me.”

The strangers looked nervous now, to Shimon’s great amusement.

“That is the donkey we need.”

“Suit yourself.”

With obvious fear on their face, the strangers took the donkey colt.

“Bring him back, or there’ll be hell to pay!”

“Don’t worry!”

But come that afternoon, there was no sign of them. When Shimon realized he had given away a free donkey, he flew into a rage rare even for him, and all Bethany knew it.

To his surprise, the strangers actually returned. Late that night, when any decent person was asleep. Which would have been the end of the odd episode, except–

The colt was never the same. When Shimon’s wife went to feed him, he didn’t try to bite her. When the village children got too close, he didn’t try to kick them.

Word went around that Shimon’s donkey was the gentlest in all the region of Benjamin. People began to come from miles around to see him. Just to pet his hide and scratch his ears was somehow comforting. The children rode him around the little town.

As the years went on, everyone had to admit that it even had an effect on Shimon. No one said this out loud, of course. It would be something of an insult to claim a man had been improved by his donkey. But he didn’t yell as he used to, didn’t utter vile words to his family and neighbors anymore, didn’t lash out with his fists.

This continued. As someone once said: Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey. Even outliving Shimon, and all his family, and all that had been present that day when he served as a king’s throne, the donkey was a grace to many, to the end of his life.

When history presents us with something that doesn’t make sense, we must remember: it made sense to them where they were. If we could stand where they stood, it would make equal sense to us

In the same way, we may retort to our own future’s sneer: “We did what we could with what we had. And you also shall have your follies.”