Stone Soup: Answers For Our World Today, From A Children’s Fable

by  Chery Gegelman  |  Workplace Issues

 Do you remember the children’s story “STONE SOUP…?”

It is a children’s fable, about a hungry traveler that comes to a small village and begins knocking on doors asking if someone will feed him.  Unfortunately it is a very poor village that is concerned they will not have the resources they need to feed their own families through the winter and he is turned away at each home.  

So the traveler goes to the river, fills a pot with water and carries it back to the center of the village.  Then he builds a big fire under the pot, and as curious villagers peek out their windows to see what he is doing, he tosses a stone into the center of the pot.   …One by one, the people in the village begin to come out of their homes to inquire about what he is doing.  He explains to each one that he is making stone soup and describes what a wonderful meal it is and then emphasizes how much better it would be if only they had____.  Each time he hints about the increased flavor of the soup that just one more vegetable or herb would add.  And each time he hints, a villager is quick to respond with an offer to provide just one thing.  Soon the entire village has contributed:  a carrot, a bit a celery, a potato, some herbs, some tomatoes, etc…  And a short time later the entire village and the hungry traveler sit down to enjoy a meal together. 

This story means more to me today as an adult than it did as a child, because I know more businesses and organizations that are living in the same fear that the villagers were, than those that are not.

Part of what those groups see is truth, however the thing that is stopping them is not the truth, it is fear.  And fear limits creativity and problem solving.

The reality is that there are not enough resources to do the things we’ve always done, the way we’ve always done them and just look out for ourselves

SOLUTIONS DO EXIST by making the choice to do something different, and when that vision begins to catch on, people feel hope and joy instead of fear.  And those positive emotions allow them to access their creative problem-solving skills and be a part of the solution.  Below are a few examples:

  • A friend of mine recently reminded several people in a meeting that it is easier to access grants IF you have pre-existing partnerships and are working with others to solve a problem instead of trying to access all of the funding for yourself.
  • Muhtar Kent the CEO of Coca-Cola shares two thoughts that he continually focuses on:  (1.)  The belief that we need better collaboration between business, government and civil society.  (2.)  The question he continually asks himself, “How can we be a revenue generator for our partners?”
  • Intel has been telling their suppliers for years, “Take the lead, take the initiative; get involved in our operations, suggest things you can provide that will help both our strategic objectives, show us that you understand our business and can help us improve it.

So here’s one great example of that thinking in action:  When I moved to Tulsa, I repeatedly heard organizations talking about volunteering at and contributing to local schools.  The 5th time I heard that kind of announcement from a different organization, I was beyond curious and HAD to know who was behind the effort.  After making some calls to learn more, the discovery was profound….  The Chamber of Commerce was employing a full time staff person to coordinate the needs of the local public school and match them with thousands of businesses, faith-based organizations and volunteers that in turn help to meet their needs with supplies, donations and volunteers.   WOW!!!!

So I have two questions for you…  (Please share your stories of collaboration and hope in the comment section so others can benefit!) 

  1.  Who do you want to recognize that is making Stone Soup?
  2. What can you do to LEAD CHANGE and create Stone Soup in your community?

“The generous man will be prosperous,
and he who waters will himself be watered.”  
Credits:  Stone Soup Icon Created by Jennifer Perregrino
What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By chery-gegelman
Chery Gegelman was once a frustrated visionary that learned to lead extensive system-wide changes from the middle. Today she is The Founder of Giana Consulting, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two books. Her passion is bringing help and understanding to people and organizations that are leading through change to growth.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jon Mertz  |  07 Jun 2012  |  Reply


Great story! Here is a collaborative effort that another Lead Change member and I are doing. Erin Schreyer and I are launching a group in the Dallas, TX area in which we will discuss and work on leadership topics. We are beginning by reading John Maxwell’s book, The 5 Levels of Leadership. We have 8 people signed up for our first meeting on 6/21. A community coming together to work together in how we can become better leaders….

We just need to start something and good will happen!



Chery Gegelman  |  08 Jun 2012  |  Reply

Thanks Jon! I am so glad you two are starting a group there! What an amazing gift for Dallas! …I can’t wait to hear how it grows!

Sonya Pryor Jones  |  08 Jun 2012  |  Reply

This story offers several great lessons. As an educator and owner of my own consultancy, Synchronicity Consulting, I’ve used it often to lead into conversations about teaming and the power of shared accountability for an organization’s mission. In fact I use a vidoe clip of the story read out loud which is a great way to include multimedia. If you want to hit on the topic of diversity or global perspective, there is an updated version with Asian travelers and an Asian village. In Cleveland, OH there are several large scale collaborations in motion to improve education; a compact for college culture and attainment, a Promise Neighborhood for quality K-12 in the poorest neighborhood in the city, and a K-16 council in another low income community lead by a local bank that was actually birthed in that community. Thanks for sharing a classic story as a tool for reflection on modern challenges!

Chery Gegelman  |  08 Jun 2012  |  Reply


Thank you for your comments. I love the idea of including a video clip with the story being read. Thanks for the examples of collaborations in Cleveland and for LEADING CHANGE!

Cynthia  |  08 Jun 2012  |  Reply

Great Post! This is a wonderful timeless story and remains relevant and universal. Collaboration is on the move – people are getting it. Putting together our resources to build community and support each other’s needs is clearly where we need to be.

Thanks for the reminder of this timeless tale to remind us.

Chery Gegelman  |  08 Jun 2012  |  Reply

Thanks for your comments Cynthia! …Getting chills thinking about the difference we can make as more and more people get it and pay it forward!

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