As they walked through the grounds outside the tower, the master ran her hands down her green robe, straightening out wrinkles that were not there. She did it unconsciously every time she was set to begin some lesson. Her young pupil noticed and began to prepare himself for her questions. The boy had only been under her training for a few months, but he had already noted some of her quirks.
“What is adversity?” She began without preamble.
He knew this one. “That which tests us and makes us stronger.”
Her right eyebrow raised as she considered him. “That is your answer? Very well. Should we welcome adversity, then?”
“Of course.” His response was again immediate.
Her eyebrow lowered. He had made a mistake somehow.
“And why is that?”
He knew he had to answer. Even if it were wrong, it would be worse if he didn’t. “Well, if it makes us stronger, it is good for us, is it not? Should we not be glad for the chance to learn?”
Her face remained blank. That was not a good sign.
“Should we help others?”
He had no idea where this question might lead, but once more, he did not hesitate. “Of course.”
“But in doing so, do we not deprive others of the good that comes from adversity?”
Now he stayed silent. He saw the problem she had led him to, but he did not see the solution. All he could do was hold his tongue and wait on her instruction.
“So to which answer are you committed? Helping others? Or welcoming adversity? Or is adversity good for you, but not for others? Or is there another option I have missed?”
His perplexity did not recede. “I do not know, master.”
She sighed. His flinch was an automatic reaction. The disappointment in her sighs was worse than any punishment he had ever received from his father.
“Listen to me.” Her voice contained a note of compassion he had not expected. “This is adversity. Right here, right now. Your uncertainty is something that must be overcome. But I cannot solve it for you. It is not that I do not want to help, but I cannot. Consider that. We will speak again next week. Until then, continue your other studies. And reflect upon today.”
The briefest of smiles and she walked away, her long stride intentionally impossible to keep pace with and not run. So he stayed still and did not try to follow her.