This story was used by the Mendozas of Holistic Community Development and Initiatives (HCDI) in its Training of Trainers program for CHE (Community Health Education). I don’t really know who came up with the story first. I modified it just a bit.
There was a small mountain village we can call “Valleyview.” The mountain it is on is very steep and so the only connection to the surrounding world was a steep, winding, dangerous footpath.
Unfortunately, the villagers would have to walk down this path to go to River City to sell their products and pick up supplies. Sometimes this treacherous path would claim a victim as a villager would slip and tumble down to the valley below.
Usually the one who tumbled down the hill would not be killed, but would only be maimed. He would lie at the bottom of the mountain trail until a vehicle driving through the valley would spot him and pick him up to take him to the clinic. Or perhaps another villager coming down the hill would spot him and run ahead to River City to get help.
Clearly this was not a good situation, so the villagers had a meeting to come up with a good solution. After a lot of discussion, they come up with a wonderful idea… PLAN A.
PLAN A was to pay a villager to stay at the bottom of the hill. When someone tumbled down the hill, he would be ready to get immediate help. And the plan would work. When someone tumbled down the hill, the paid guard would quickly run to River City, and get help.
Eventually, the villagers became unhappy with the situation. If the guard at the bottom of the mountain could not hitchhike a ride on the way to River City, the injured villager may end up lying at the bottom of the mountain for an hour before medical help could arrive. After further discussion, a new plan arose… PLAN B.
PLAN B was to give the guard at the bottom of the hill a vehicle… an ambulance. When someone fell off the path and landed in the valley, the guard could quickly lift him into the ambulance and drive off to River City to be treated. This was great, for awhile. But it was rather expensive to maintain a vehicle and pay someone whose only job was to drive the injured to River City to be treated. But then came a brilliant idea… PLAN C.
PLAN C was so obvious. Why drive them off to River City to be treated? Why not treat them where they are? So the villagers built a medical clinic at the bottom of the path. Now as soon as someone fell off the path, a medical team and equipment was immediately available to provide help.
And perhaps this would have been a satisfying solution, if it were not for the high cost of maintaining the clinic, and the lost labor due to injured villagers stuck healing at the clinic. For a long time the village dealt with the burden of PLAN C because it seemed to be the only good solution.
But one day, a child in the village, was asked to go to River City. He had never been off the mountain before. Looking down the path, he got scared and said, “I’m not going down there until someone puts in a handrail.”
And that’s exactly what they did.
This story is used to show the value of prevention over cure. In health, we often focus on pills, hospitals, and operations. Yet the better focus in health is diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Additionally, in missions, we often focus on money solutions. Throw money at problems. A medical clinic is impressive and one can put a big brass plate on it. But a better solution, a handrail is less impressive, and is not as easily explained to supporters. Supporters love hospitals, but may not value handrails.
Missions should be more focused on prevention and transformation rather than dealing with the aftermath of problems. Missions should also be more focused on the needy rather than on supporters