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Every July 5-10 in a small town in Turkey there is a huge celebration for Nasreddin, one of the most memorable characters in Middle Eastern literature. In fact, UNESCO declared 1996-1997 to be the International Year of Nasreddin!

So who was Nasreddin? He may or may not have actually lived in the 13th century, but his stories have spread around the world from Turkey to Africa, to China to the U.S.

Nasreddin (sometimes spelled Nasrudeen) was a sort of philosopher-fool in a turban and goatee. He went around doing and saying crazy things that sometimes had a bit of wisdom to them but always brought a smile.

So today, just to lighten things up a bit, I’m going to share two Nasreddin stories. The first story is just for fun.

A neighbor came to Nasreddin’s yard and Nasreddin went out to meet him. “Can you lend me your donkey today?” the neighbor asked. “I have some goods to transport to the next town.”

Not really wanting to lend his donkey, yet not wanting to hurt the man’s feelings, Nasreddin said, “I’m sorry, but I’ve already lent him to someone else.” Just then, the donkey could be heard braying loudly behind a wall in the yard.

“But Nasreddin,” the neighbor exclaimed, “I can hear it behind that wall!”

Nasreddin was indignant. “Who are you going to believe, me or the donkey?”

The second story has a bit of insight.

Hiding behind some bushes, Nasreddin observed a man walking down the road carrying a backpack. The man had his head down; he looked depressed. Nasreddin ran up behind him, grabbed the backpack and ran off ahead of him.

“Hey!” the man yelled, and gave chase. Nasreddin ran around a turn in the road, dropped the backpack, then hid behind bushes. The man came running around the corner and then stopped when he saw the pack in the middle of the road. Amazed and delighted, he picked up the pack and went off down the road whistling.

“Well,” Nasreddin said to himself, “I guess that’s one way to find happiness!”

Someone has said: to find enlightenment, you must lighten up. But that doesn’t mean to get rid of our burdens; we all have burdens. To lighten up means finding a way to carry the burdens with some joy and not take ourselves quite so seriously.