A monarch of long ago had twin sons. There was some confusion about which one was born first. As they grew to young manhood, the king sought a fair way to designate one of them as crown prince. All who knew the young men thought them equal in intelligence, wit, personal charm, health, and physical strength. Being a keenly observant king, he thought he detected a trait in one which was not shared by the other.
Calling them to his council chamber one day, he said, “My sons, the day will come when one of you must succeed me as king. The burdens of sovereignty are very heavy. To find out which of you is better able to bear them cheerfully, I am sending you together to a far corner of the kingdom. One of my advisors there will place equal burdens on your shoulders. My crown will one day go to the one who first returns bearing his burden like a king should.”
In a spirit of friendly competition, the brothers set out together. Soon they overtook an aged woman struggling under a burden that seemed far too heavy for her frail body. One of the boys suggested that they stop to help her. The other protested: “We have a burden of our own to worry about. Let us be on our way.”
The objector hurried on while the other stayed behind to give aid to the aged woman. Along the road, from day to day, he found others who also needed help. A blind man took him miles out of his way, and a lame man slowed him to a cripple’s walk.
Eventually he did reach his father’s advisor, where he secured his own burden and started home with it safely on his shoulders. When he arrived at the palace, his brother met him at the gate, and greeted him with dismay. He said, “I don’t understand. I told our father the burden was too heavy to carry. However did you do it?”
The future king replied thoughtfully, “I suppose when I helped others carry their burdens, I found the strength to carry my own.”