The Story of Stone Soup is believed to be a folk legend of unknown origins. There are European versions, English versions, Asian and American versions, all of which share similarities, with variations in detail, but the same basic theme. Pardon our paraphrased Well-Being account.
Once upon a time…a hungry traveler came upon a village where he hoped to find a meal to fill his empty belly. At first, the villagers who were very poor told him they had nothing to give. Upon hearing this, the traveler, who was quite ingenious, devised a plan. He told the villagers he had a magic stone that can make soup. All he would need is a pot of water and a fire to cook it over. The curious villagers obliged the traveler and soon he was stirring a boiling pot of water to which he added a round, smooth stone.
All the villagers begin to gather around to see the magic of the stone at work, while the traveler, stirred and tasted his soup. Soon he declared that the soup was indeed quite delicious, but would be even better if he only had a few vegetables, and maybe a tiny piece of meat to add to its rich stock. The poor villagers thought about the large pot of mouth-watering soup and how much they would like to share it. One by one, they brought what they had. One man had a carrot, a little old woman offered a small onion, a boy gave a handfull of beans, a girl – a potato and so on and so on until each one had brought a small offering to add to the community soup. After some time, the traveler declared the soup ready for serving. Everyone came with their empty bowls to share and enjoy what was quite possibly the best soup they had ever tasted.
As I learned about the history of Stewpot Community Services for our “Making a Difference in Mississippi” feature this issue, I thought of the Story of Stone Soup. Just as the villagers in the folktale come together to create something they could never have done without help, Stewpot was founded by individuals representing 7 churches to help the homeless in the community, whose needs they could not meet alone. By combining their time, talents and resources they created a growing network of programs and services (starting with a soup kitchen), that now serves the community in ways the original members might never have imagined. And how appropriate it is that they had the wisdom and forethought to give it the name STEWPOT.