The Keeper of the Spring was a quiet forest dweller who lived high above an Austrian village along the western slopes of the Alps. The old gentleman had been hired many years ago by a young Town Council to clear away the debris from the pools of water up in the mountain crevices that fed the lovely spring flowing through their town. With faithful, silent regularity, he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt that would otherwise choke and contaminate the fresh flow of water.
By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal clear spring, the mill wheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and the view from restaurants was picturesque beyond description.
Years passed. One evening the Town Council met for its semi-annual meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary figure being paid the obscure Keeper of the Spring. Said the Keeper of the Purse: “Who is this old man? Why do we keep him on year after year? No one ever sees him. For all we know the strange ranger of the hills is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer! By unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old man’s services.
For several weeks, nothing changed. By early autumn, the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A couple of days later, the water was much darker.
Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks and a foul odor was soon detected. The mill wheels moved slower, and some finally ground to a halt. Swans left, as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.
Quickly, the embarrassed council called a special meeting. Realizing their gross error in judgment, they hired back the old Keeper of the Spring……and within just a few weeks, the veritable river of life began to clear up. The wheels started to turn, and new life returned to the hamlet in the Alps once again.
From Peter Marshall's book, “Mr. Jones, Meet the Master”