Last week, I was in an interview where I had a chance to recount one of my favorite stories, “The Stone Soup.” It was fun for me because I rarely get a chance to tell a story in a job interview because they so rarely seem to fit the question asked. When I had to chance to pass along this cool story from my in-laws, I could not resist.
It seems there was an old beggar whose sole possession outside of the clothes on his back was a large pot. He went from town to town, village to village with the story of how his restaurant had burned down to the ground leaving him with only this pot. He insisted cooking was his love and joy, and he could make the best soup anyone had ever tasted with his special ingredient and his pot. He would bet anyone in the town willing to take him up on the bet, and when he had enough participants in his wager he would begin using whatever stove, oven or fire they provided.
He would start with water in the pot and add his special ingredient hidden from the betters into the pot. Then people would come offering him spices, vegetables and even some meat. When he served the soup, people were amazed how good their ordinary fare tasted when combined with his special ingredient.
As a result, he became somewhat of a welcome guest traveling from town. When he was old and could no longer travel from house to house, much less town to town, he made a deal with a large family who agreed to let him stay with them if he would tell them his secret ingredient. He told them the secret was just a rock he found on the road to wherever he headed next. The reason everyone loved the soup was their part in its making. Often what is needed can be found at hand, and even if he did not like the taste, he never starved.
As for what question in interview this story fits, they asked me, “What do you do when you are instructed to do something for which you do not have the resources, and the requester isn’t giving them to you?”
“Have you ever heard the story of ‘Stone Soup’?” I add what I can to the pot, and thus far, I have not starved.
For me, the story has always been symbolic of our family. We all bring something to this soup we call a home, and we cherish it because of what we have invested of ourselves into it. We value it not because of what it costs in dollars. We value it mostly because of what it means for us, and the comfort and nurturing we find there. When we foster other kids into our home, they add another ingredient into the soup that I still find the best I have tasted.