The prince did not accept that he was a prince. He was blind, and had decided the world was beautiful and he was ugly. He did not act like a prince, unable to believe that anyone as flawed as himself could be royalty.
Soon enough he walked away from the Kingdom in search of a place where he might hide his imperfections. The prince tried to fit in here and there, with these people and with those. He hid his identity from everyone until he forgot it himself.
One day he heard a story about his father the king. The storyteller told of his great love and kindness, and the humility he showed in dealing with his subjects. The young prince listened to the tale of his father’s bravery and sacrifice, and came to understood the kingdom in a new way.
The prince decided to be a good and loyal subject. He would start by following the rules his father had enacted. As if for the first time, he studied the laws of his father’s kingdom. The prince was surprised to find he enjoyed his life more than ever he had.
In fact, the very first time he went to the public square to serve his village, he met an extraordinary friend -although he didn’t know it at the time. The prince came across a homeless man, both epileptic and diabetic, and neither had slowed his drinking. He was planning to kill himself.
The young prince did all he could for the poor man, he listened and offered a plate of warm eggs as a last meal. The man declined, he was in great despair and wanted no comfort. He would take all of his insulin that night and walk until he fell over dead.
The man dismissed the prince. “You don’t understand” he said, “I’m calling it quits.”
The prince replied, “You’re right. I do not understand. But I will listen if you’ll tell me.”
As his tale was told, the man’s tears dried and his eyes cleared. The prince offered food again, and the man again refused. “I can’t see.” The prince stood and extended his hand, which the man took. They crossed the street together.
When the plates had been cleaned and the cups emptied, the man stood to leave. Before turning away he said, “If you should ever want to know how many of the poor live, come walk an evening with me.”
“Would I find you alive if I did?”
“I’ll be around” assured the man. The young prince smiled.
One warm evening a few weeks later the prince went again to the park. He found the man sitting under a tree, listening to musicians play and sipping from a bag. The prince greeted the man, who spoke with him hesitantly.
The prince noted the simple, sharp knife laying close at hand, and understood that his new friend lived under laws of a different sort. The man was small and sickly – he would stab first and avoid a fight he could not win.
Over the next few years the prince and the man would cross paths and speak pleasantly. From time to time the man would disappear, and the prince came to expect this. The man explained he had been at times under a physicians care, others he had been under the jailers lock.
Still, they would part ways until next they met. However this all changed one cold October morning.