Imagine this scene for a second: A student and a teacher sit silently, when suddenly the student turns and asks, “What is the difference between heaven and hell?”
The teacher smirks and then sighs.
She takes the student’s hand, and leads her down the street to a brick building with broken windows and dusty floors. They wander down a long hallway until they reach two doors, each with a small window allowing views inside.
Hanging above one door is a small, handwritten sign: HEAVEN.
Next to it, above the other door, a different sign sits with clear, bold letters: HELL.
The teacher nods knowingly as the student, with trembling footsteps, slowly approaches the first door. She peers inside and is surprised to find a dinner party in progress.
On a huge wooden table with large candlesticks, food is piled high on gold-plated dishes. There is fine wine in goblets, fresh bread and grilled fish next to trays of deviled eggs and pancakes, fresh-baked pies and puddings.
On every wall, oil paintings hang in large frames.
Sitting around the table in ornate thrones, dozens of people sit quietly, each holding a fork.
But something’s not right.
The forks are much too long to use, and the guests cannot put food in their mouths.
Despite their opulence and abundance, the people are miserable, despondent and starving, their faces expressionless, emaciated and suffering. They hold their long forks but are unable to eat.
After a moment, the student shrieks and can no longer bear the scene. She steps away from the door and looks down at her trembling hands, and then up to her teacher who nods towards the other door, the one with ‘HEAVEN’ hanging above it.
Walking over, she looks inside and once again is surprised to find a dinner party in progress. In fact, she sees the same dinner party as before. The same paintings hang on the same walls in the same frames. The same guests sit around the same table piled high with the same food on the same plates.
What’s more, they’re even holding the same long forks as before.
However, these guests are all happy and laughing. Their faces are full of light and life. They are vibrant and bright.
The student suddenly understands.
Rather than trying to feed themselves, they fed each other…
And that takes me back to you, and us, and this world we all share. And that leads me to a question, a consideration, something to think about: What if heaven was a choice, or maybe a belief like compassion or kindness, maybe generosity? And what if we agreed that hell was just greed, selfishness, or perhaps apathy?
And what if the only difference between heaven and hell was choosing to help other people in need?