Once upon a time a young man went to a sage for help.

“I come, teacher, because I feel so small that I have no strength to do anything. Everyone tells me I’m good for nothing, that I don’t do anything right, that I’m clumsy and rather silly. How can I improve myself?”

The teacher, without looking up, replied, “I’m sorry boy, but I can’t help you. I have to solve my own problem first. Maybe later.” But after a pause, he added, “If you would like to help me, I could solve this problem faster, and then maybe I can help you.”

The young man stammered to the teacher, feeling worthless as usual, his needs again subordinated.

“Well, then,” agreed the teacher. He took off a ring he was wearing on his little finger and gave it to the boy, saying, “Take the horse out there and ride to the market place. I have to sell this ring to pay a debt. We have to get as much for it as we possibly can, but don’t accept anything less than a gold coin. Go, and come back with the money as quickly as you can.”

The young man took the ring and left. As soon as he got there, he started offering the ring to the traders. They looked at it with some interest, until the young man mentioned gold, some laughed and others turned away, and only an old man was kind enough to take the trouble to explain that a gold coin was too much to pay for a ring. Eager to help, someone offered him a silver coin and a few coppers, but the young man had been instructed to accept nothing less than a gold coin and rejected the offer.

After offering his jewel to every person passing through the market, over a hundred people, and dejected by his failure, he mounted his horse and rode back.

He entered the room and told the teacher, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t get what you asked. Maybe I could’ve gotten two or three silver coins, but I don’t think I could’ve convinced anyone of the true value of the ring.”

“How important is what you just said, my young friend” responded the teacher, smiling. “We must first find out the true value of the ring. Get yourself together and go to the jeweler. Who better than he to tell us? Tell him you would like to sell the ring, and ask him how much he’d give you for it, but no matter what he offers, don’t sell it. Come back here with my ring.”

The young man rode back. The jeweler examined the ring by lamplight with his magnifying glass, weighed it, and then said, “Tell the teacher, boy, that if he wants to sell it right now, I can’t give him more than 58 gold coins for his ring.

58 gold coins?!!!!!!!!! cried the youth.

“Yes,” replied the jeweler, “If he had more time, he could probably find a buyer at 70 coins. Otherwise….”

The excited youth hurried back to the teacher’s house to tell him what happened.

“Sit down,” said the teacher after listening to him. “You are like this ring: a worthy and unique jewel. The only person who can understand your true worth is an expert. Why do you go around expecting that anyone you meet on the street knows your true worth?” So saying, he put the ring back on his little finger.