Making Stone Soup

In several European countries there is an old tale of Stone Soup. It has many variations in various countries. I am most familiar with the French version. The main part of the folk story centers around three soldiers who are on their way back home from the Napoleonic wars. They are hungry and tired and just cannot seem to find any food. They get real creative after they find a big cooking pot.


One of the soldiers goes down to the local river and gets a large clean stone. While he is gone, the other two gather up some firewood and carefully hang the pot above the flames. Once the stone is put in the bottom of the pot, they fill it with water and light the fire underneath.

With time, a farmer comes by after smelling the smoke. He approaches the soldiers and ask what they are making. The obvious reply comes from them that they are making “Stone Soup”! He asks about the contents after looking in the pot and comments that the soup looks very thin and weak. He generously offers a few carrots from his bag for the soup. The soldiers graciously accept his kind gesture and add the carrots to the mixture.

Not long after a second farmer arrives and offers some onions. His followed by a variety of local townspeople who offer potatoes, meats, spices, corn and a variety of other things. The soldiers accept each offer with the same excitement and offer their deep thanks to each person.

In the end, a wonderful, warm and hearty stew is ready for all to eat. All the villagers and others who supplied the various additions all join together for a glorious fest of soup and fellowship!

This story has been told over time for many years and in many forms. It is a tale of cooperation and warmth. The key element is about neighbors helping neighbors with a positive result in the end. It tells of how a small idea and little bit of creativity can result in a very positive thing happening that impacts many people.

How many times have you given up on an idea before it had time to grow to its full potential? I know I am guilty of that. You give up as it seems way too hard; costs too much; seems like just a crazy idea that will never work or you believe no one will ever believe in you. We often see the hurdles ahead and consider them impossible to climb.

In this story, the soldiers see each rock as a stepping stone and not a boulder to stop them! They see how their good idea just gets better with more input and more ideas being added to the stone soup. They had a dream and began to build that dream and not just sit and feel sorry for themselves. They chose to climb instead of complain.

I found a few stories about how people succeeded by failing that I thought are worth sharing.

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes: Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother wanted to produce cooked wheat for patients in their sanatorium in a place called Battle Creek, Michigan. They managed to leave it unattended after a test cooking of the wheat and it went stale. Next they ran the mush through rollers to get the water out. In desperation, they toasted it. The resulting crispy flakes were popular with their patients and came to be known as corn flakes! In 1906, his younger brother Will Kellogg started selling his corn flakes to the public. As they say, the rest is history. The Kellogg cereals are still made there to this day.

I know from experience that your dreams must be shared to become reality. I believe that you must share your dreams with others to make them real. Please keep dreaming and don’t give up due to failure and disappoints.

Microwave Oven: We all live by our microwaves now! If it were not for that important kitchen appliance, I would probably starve! In 1939, Perry Spencer was building magnetrons for radar systems. One day the chocolate candy bar in his shirt pocket melted. He checked and found out the heating properties of microwaves worked well and they worked great for cooking food. He kept experimenting and created the first microwave in 1945. It was called the Radarange!

The Harry Potter Series: The wildly popular Harry Potter books and movies were written by a woman named J. K. Rowling. She started her first draft in 1990. Later that year, her mother died after 10 years of illness. In 1992, she moved to Portugal and taught English. She got married and had a daughter that same year. In only a year, in 1993, her marriage ended in divorce sadly. She returned to Scotland to be close to her sister and had three chapters completed.

By 1994 she was divorced, penniless and jobless. She had a young child that depended on her. She even had to sign up for government welfare.

In 1995 no less than 12 publishers rejected her book. In 1996 a small publishing house took a chance and gave her a $2000 advance. In 1997, she had only sold 1000 copies. However her life soon changed. In 1997 and 1998, her book was the British Book of the Year for Children.

According to the most recent information, she has now sold over 450 million books and has made eight movies based on the seven book series. The estimated worth of the Harry Potter movies alone is $7.7 billion. Not bad for a penniless young lady.

A dream must first start within youself. You should take your idea and share your dream with others. From there, by getting buy in and support from others, your dream can turn into a reality. This final reality may not be where you started. As a matter of fact; it will probably be better than you dreamed and hoped because you have other people believe in your idea and you. They added to the dream, shaped it in new ways and improved it to make it more of a success.

Be Safe

Based on:

Ken Farmer is Section Chief, Leadership and Fire Risk Reduction at the National Fire Academy, United States Fire Administration in Maryland. Email him at

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