What’s Stone Soup Got To Do With It?
Recently, someone asked me about the value of taking classes, and in particular, Lionheart’s advanced Level 1 and Level 2 classes. Why bother with classes and group process work? Why not just get one-on-one therapy? Why learn energy healing? In answer, the story of Stone Soup came to mind (and I hadn’t thought of it in years).
I first heard this story at my children’s Waldorf school, an environment rich in rituals and celebrations to mark the different seasons, holidays, and phases of life. One such celebration took place every Thanksgiving when all the kindergarten families were invited to a Stone Soup feast. The kindergarten teachers prepared the soup with help from the children, who were each asked to bring something to add to the pot. Meanwhile, parents were charged with bringing traditional dishes like pumpkin pie and cornbread to share. When the soup was ready, we all shared in this feast for both body and soul made possible by everyone’s contribution. But before we ate, we were treated to the story of stone soup.
Perhaps you recall this old folk tale in which a hungry wanderer comes to a village and wins over the wary peasants? When the stranger, dressed in rags and with nothing but a knapsack to his name, enters the village, the peasants hurry to hide their food for they do not want to share what little they have with him. At each house he passes, he asks if he might have a bite to eat, but everywhere the answer is the same, “We have barely enough to eat ourselves.” After a while, the wanderer goes to the village square and exclaims, “Well, if you haven’t enough to eat, then we must make Stone Soup.” Curious, the villagers gather round. “What is stone soup?” they wonder.
The stranger asks them for the largest pot they have and, while they fetch it and fill it with water, he lights a fire, then sets the pot to boil. In the pot he places a large, smooth stone. “Mmm,” he sighs, “this will make one of the best soups you have ever tasted, I promise you.” The villagers gather closer. “Ah,” the stranger continues, “if only we had a carrot or two, it would taste that much better.” Soon, one of the villagers returns with an armful of carrots. “Excellent,” cries the stranger. “Of course, who ever heard of a soup without cabbage?” Before long, another villager returns with some cabbages. And so it continues until the pot of soup is simmering with an array of vegetables, seasonings, and tidbits of meat. The smell is intoxicating and the villagers are restless with hunger. “Let’s set up tables for a fine banquet!” proposes the stranger. Tables are brought out and covered with pretty tablecloths, and then, as if by magic, bread and butter and wine also appear. And so they all sit down to eat together and enjoy a fine meal in happy company.
With his simple gesture, the hungry wanderer fills not only his belly and the belly of the peasants, but also their hearts. Yes, perhaps he starts out with a hidden agenda—to satisfy his own hunger—but the way he does it ultimately serves a greater good. Where individually each had enough of something, together they have enough of everything. Where one household may have had only carrots, another only cabbage, another only onions, and so on, together they create a nourishing meal as well as a rich sense of community.
So, what’s stone soup got to do with anything? As I recounted this story, the student who asked about continuing with the Level 1 and Level 2 courses nodded as the moral underlying this little allegory became clear. Without everyone’s individual contribution, there would be no hearty soup, no feasting, no community. Without the stranger’s coaxing, the villagers would remain isolated in their homes, stirring a thin broth, warming, perhaps, but not really satisfying.
In this same way, group work provides the space for a feast, a space where each participant brings something to add to the pot, where each ingredient makes the experience richer, deeper, more meaningful, and, ultimately, more nourishing for everyone. The group feeds us on every level—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—in ways individual work cannot. Group work can engender in us qualities such as compassion, generosity, humility, forgiveness, qualities we can then take into our individual healing work…and practice with both others and ourselves! In such a context, healing becomes exponential.
And so, although the hungry stranger’s first thought is to fill his belly, in seeking to satisfy his own hunger, he ends up feeding everyone. Likewise, when we are suffering, our first thought is to ease that suffering, to heal ourselves—and in healing ourselves we can facilitate healing in others. Indeed, for deep healing to happen we need both individual work and group work. Sometimes it’s good to dine at home, and it’s also good to feast with friends—or strangers, as the case may be! Come join us — you won’t leave hungry, I promise.
Isabella Errico-Dossi is a graduate of Lionheart Institute as well as a teaching assistant for some of their classes. She graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Comparative Literature, and after traveling and living abroad, she settled down in Los Angeles again to finally start a real job. But it wasn’t long before she was back at school, this time to pursue both a teaching credential (UCLA) and a thee-year teacher training program for Waldorf education, after which she taught German in all grades at Highland Hall Waldorf School. Since 2003 she has been a part-owner of Cafe Carolina, an Italian restaurant in Encino featuring authentic dishes and many organic ingredients. About ten years ago, after a serendipitous conversation with a customer, Isabella began a journey to learn more about energy healing and consciousness, learning Bodytalk, receiving Reiki I and II attunement, and then enrolling at Lionheart. Yoga keeps her in right alignment, and writing, especially poetry, keeps her sane.