And now, a short story about travelers and social norms.

Once upon a time, an old grandparent and a child who lived in a far away land needed to make a long trek through many different villages. They collected their supplies and packed them on a horse. As they left their home, they walked beside the animal, leading it by its reigns.

As they approached the first village, they noticed they were getting funny looks from the townsfolk, but they didn’t know why. Eventually a villager asked them, “Why aren’t you riding your horse? It’s a hot day, you’ll tire yourselves out if you don’t!”

They climbed up on their horse and continued their journey.

As they approached the second village, they again noticed they were being stared at. But this time the villagers were all glaring at them. “How dare you make your horse carry all that weight and yourselves!” they shouted. “Why aren’t you walking beside your horse? That’s animal abuse!”

Startled, the grandparent and the child quickly got off their horse, returning to its side as they continued their journey.

As they approached the third village, they were again getting funny looks. They didn’t know what to do. Finally, a villager stops them and says, “You’re so silly. The child is very light, and won’t add much weight to the horse’s pack.”

The grandparent nods, and lifts the child onto the horse, continuing their journey.

As they approach the fourth village, a gaggle of children surrounds them and mercilessly teases the child on the horse. “You’re so weak and little, riding on that horse!” they say, bringing the young child to tears until, out of shame, they alight from the horse’s back.

And the moral of the story, of course, is that someone, somewhere, will always have something to say about why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing wrong, but don’t let that stop you from completing your journey.

(This was originally published on my other blog.)