Have you ever heard the expression, “listen to your heart”?
We’re about to meet two brothers: one who listens to his heart, and one who listens to his head. And though both siblings embark on the exact same adventure, their journeys couldn’t be more different!
Our story is called “The Head and the Heart.” It’s inspired by an old Yiddish tale from the Jewish tradition.
Voices in this episode include Amy Brentano, Feodor Chin, Thais Harris, Jessica Rau, Delores King Williams, Hrishikesh Hirway and Joshua Malina.
Stage and screen star Joshua Malina has appeared in Scandal, The West Wing and Sports Night, as well as the original Broadway production of A Few Good Men. He co-hosted the podcast, The West Wing Weekly, with Hrishikesh Hirway. Hrishikesh is the host and creator of the podcast and Netflix series, Song Exploder, where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece tell the story of how they were made.
This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Amory Sivertson. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.
ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.
Things To Think About After Listening
Over the next few days, practice listening to your heart — paying attention to everyone and everything around you, and thinking of ways you can show compassion and love.
Maybe you can leave a thank-you note for your mail carrier, you can draw a picture for a loved one whom you haven’t seen in a while, or you can greet your family in the morning with a big smile and an even bigger hug.
Next, find someone you have fun with — a family member or friend — and tell them how it felt to listen to your heart. Then challenge them to spend a few days listening to theirs!
Musical spotlight: The Mandolin
The mandolin is classified as a member of the lute family, yet it’s tuned like a violin. A high-pitched descendant of the ancient oud (which we featured in “The Unwelcome Guest” and “The Sultan’s Figs”), the mandolin evolved in Italy sometime around the 1600s. As with the oud, the mandolin has a hollow wooden body, and you use a pick to pluck strings on the fingerboard. You’ll hear the mandolin in all sorts of music, including bluegrass, blues, classical, country, folk, jazz and rock.
NARRATOR: Way out in the countryside, in a drafty little farmhouse, Benjamin and Gabriel lived with their Mother.
The family grew carrots, onions and potatoes on a tiny plot of land next to the house. Come harvest time, the brothers and their mother would load up their horse and cart and take the vegetables to market.
But one year, everything went wrong. The crops refused to grow. The horse and cart broke down. And as harvest time approached, Mother was wringing her hands with worry.
MOTHER: Oh, Benjamin! Gabriel! With no harvest this year, there’s no way our family will survive! And we’ve lost our precious horse and cart... (beat) What are we going to do?
NARRATOR: Gabriel gave his mom a loving hug.
GABRIEL: (caring, gentle) There, there, Mother. We’ll figure something out.
NARRATOR: Mother smiled through her tears. Gabriel had always been the quiet son — modest and sweet and full of heart. Benjamin, on the other hand…
BENJAMIN: (brash, haughty, cocky) I’m sorry, brother — but “we’ll figure something out”…!? Oh no no no! I’ll figure something out! After all, I’m the one with the superior smarts! The expert intellect! The magnificent mind!
NARRATOR: Unlike his brother, Benjamin was less heart, and more head. A big-talking know-it-all who was sure he had all the answers.
BENJAMIN: Okay, folks. Here’s what’s going to happen. I’ll go out into the world and I’ll get myself a job. (cocky/aside) After all, anyone in their right mind would be eager to hire a brilliant fellow like myself! (beat) Then I’ll come back and I’ll save this family! Just you wait.
NARRATOR: So the next morning, Benjamin packed his bags and began his journey.
All was quiet as he made his way through the countryside. But as he crossed over a babbling brook and began climbing a rolling green hill, he suddenly heard...
SHEEP: Excuse me, sir!
NARRATOR: … a voice! And it was coming from… a sheep!
A shivering, haggard sheep who looked as though it hadn’t seen a bath… or a meal... in months. The creature’s shaggy wool was knotted and caked with dirt, and its quivering body was so gaunt you could count its ribs!
SHEEP: I’m sorry to bother you, sir, but could you please bathe me and give me a bite to eat?
NARRATOR: Benjamin stopped and squinted at the sheep.
BENJAMIN: (haughty, incredulous) I’m sorry — did you say something?!?
SHEEP: I did! I asked if you’d wash me! And feed me! (beat) I promise, sir, if you help me out, I’ll show you my gratitude some day!
NARRATOR: Benjamin rolled his eyes.
BENJAMIN: What kind of fool do you think I am? I am on a very important mission, and I don’t have time for a pathetic creature like you. The answer is no!
NARRATOR: Then he grunted and stomped away.
But just as he was strolling through a sunny meadow…
TREE: Pardon me, sir!
NARRATOR: … he heard another voice! This one was coming from… a pear tree!
A rather sad pear tree with tangled, droopy branches. The earth around the tree’s trunk was cracked and parched.
TREE: I’m sorry to bother you, sir, but could you please trim my branches and water my roots?
NARRATOR: Benjamin’s jaw dropped as he gaped at the tree.
BENJAMIN: Excuse me?!? Were you speaking to me just now…!?
TREE: I was! I asked if you could trim me! And water me! (beat) I promise, sir, if you help me out, I’ll show you my gratitude some day!
NARRATOR: Benjamin put his hands on his hips.
BENJAMIN: What kind of dimwit do you think I am? I am on a very important mission, and I don’t have time for an overgrown shrub like you. The answer is no!
NARRATOR: He shot an annoyed glance at the pear tree, then continued on.
But as he came to a winding lane, can you guess what he heard…?
WELL: Pardon me, sir!
NARRATOR: That’s right! Another voice! And it was coming from… a well!
A sorry-looking well, its muddy water hidden beneath a slimy layer of green algae. Next to the well was a tarnished, banged-up cup.
WELL: I’m sorry to bother you, sir, but could you please clean my water and polish my cup?
NARRATOR: Benjamin slapped his palm to his forehead.
BENJAMIN: (to himself) What is going on today?!? (to the well) Did you just ask me something…!?
WELL: I did! I asked if you could clean me and polish my cup! (beat) I promise, sir, if you help me out, I’ll show you my gratitude some day!
NARRATOR: Benjamin crossed his arms.
BENJAMIN: What kind of numskull do you think I am? I am on a very important mission, and I don’t have time for a mildewy mess like you. The answer is no!
NARRATOR: Then he shook his head and hurried away from the well.
Before long, Benjamin found himself in a deep valley. In the middle of the valley was a farm, its sprawling fields flush with lush, leafy vegetable crops!
When Benjamin knocked on the farmhouse door to ask for work, the farmer’s eyes lit up.
FARMER: Well, young man, as it happens, you’re in luck! It’s harvest time, and I’m looking for somebody to start picking all my vegetables! I’ll give you food and drink and a place to sleep. And after one month’s time, you’ll get your payment.
NARRATOR: Benjamin liked the sound of that! So he spent a month harvesting vegetables. But when payment time rolled around, the farmer told Benjamin she wouldn’t be paying him with money. Instead, she waved her arm toward the horse stable.
FARMER: See that stable over yonder? It’s chock-full of stuff. Lots of stuff. Mosey on in... take a gander at what’s inside… and take whatever you need.
NARRATOR: Without wasting a minute, Benjamin hurried to the stable. Inside, he feasted his eyes on all sorts of wonderful things. Horses, of course — strong ones and feeble ones, big ones and small — plus an assortment of carts and carriages, chests and boxes.
Benjamin rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He picked out a majestic show horse with a fancy bridle and braided mane. He hitched the great creature to a massive carriage gilded with gold and lined with satin and velvet. Then he peeked inside all the chests and boxes, and selected a big, brass-bound chest that was brimming with jewels. He hoisted the chest into the gilded carriage, then set off for home.
As Benjamin and his horse clip-clopped down a winding lane, he spotted a well with fresh, clean water and a shiny tin cup. Realizing how dry his throat was, Benjamin jumped down from the carriage and strode over to the well. But just as he grabbed the cup and bent over to scoop up some water...
WELL: Excuse me!!! What do you think you’re doing?!?
NARRATOR: Before Benjamin knew what was happening, the tin cup flew right out of his hand!
BENJAMIN: Wait! I’m trying to take a drink here!
WELL: A drink, eh...? (beat) One month ago, when I asked you to clean my water and polish my cup, do you remember what you did? You blew me off! And now you want to take a drink...? Of my water…? I don’t think so!
NARRATOR: Benjamin felt his cheeks burn as he backed away from the well and scrambled onto his carriage.
He rode on, and before long, he came across a pear tree in a sunny meadow. The tree’s healthy, well-trimmed branches were exploding with ripe, yellow fruit. Benjamin heard his stomach grumble.
Hopping off the carriage, Benjamin bounded over to the tree. But just as he stood on his tiptoes to pick a plump, juicy pear…
TREE: Excuse me!!! What do you think you’re doing?!?
NARRATOR: The tree began shaking and rustling its branches with so much force, Benjamin had to hold up his hands to protect his face.
BENJAMIN: Hey! What?! I’m just trying to have a snack!
TREE: Have a snack, eh…? (beat) One month ago, when I asked you to trim my branches and water my roots, do you remember what you did? You abandoned me! And now you want to snack…? On my pears...? No way!
NARRATOR: Benjamin felt his pulse race as he stumbled back to his carriage. His hands were trembling as he picked up the reins, but he rode on.
As he ascended a rolling green hill, he spotted a sheep coming his way. The sheep had a soft, lustrous coat of wool. Benjamin thought about how handy that flossy wool could be come winter time. So he stepped down from the carriage, laid one hand on the sheep’s back, then lifted his pocket knife so he could shear some wool.
SHEEP: Excuse me!!! What do you think you’re doing?!?
NARRATOR: The sheep jerked its head and reared its front legs at Benjamin.
BENJAMIN: What’s the problem? I was just going to take some of your wool! Goodness knows you have plenty!
SHEEP: Take some of my wool, eh…? (beat) One month ago, when I asked you to bathe me and give me some food, do you remember what you did? You gave me the cold shoulder! And now you want some of my wool…? Dream on!
NARRATOR: Then the sheep kicked up its heels and disappeared over the hill.
By the time Benjamin arrived back at his family’s drafty little farmhouse, he was worn out. It was nearly midnight, and his mother and brother were fast asleep. So he stowed his new horse, carriage and chest in the tumbledown shed out back, then collapsed in his bed.
The next morning, he woke up feeling fresh as a daisy.
BENJAMIN: Mother, Brother! Wake up and come with me to the shed! You won’t believe the treasures I brought home!
NARRATOR: Benjamin had a big old grin on his face as he unlocked the shed. But the minute he flung the door open…
[SOT: doors open]
NARRATOR: ...his big old grin… turned into a big old grimace!
[theme music in]
NARRATOR: What do you think Benjamin saw inside the shed?
We’ll find out what it was, after a quick break.
[theme music out]
[theme music in]
NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Head and the Heart.”
[theme music out]
NARRATOR: Before the break, Benjamin had returned home after a month of work on a farm. As payment, the farmer told Benjamin he could take whatever he needed from her stable. So what did Benjamin do? He picked out a fancy show horse, a gilded carriage, and a chest full of jewels, and headed back toward his family’s drafty little farmhouse.
On his way, he came upon a talking sheep, tree and well. When he’d encountered the same sheep, tree and well a month ago, they’d been in a sorry state, and Benjamin had given them the cold shoulder. Now that they were in better shape, they gave him the cold shoulder!
Once Benjamin reached his house, he could hardly wait to show his treasures to his mother and his sweet, humble brother, Gabriel. But when Benjamin opened the door to the shed...
BENJAMIN: What in the world…?!??
NARRATOR: ...all of his treasures were gone! Somehow, the fancy show horse had transformed into a feeble old mare… the gilded carriage had become a broken cart with one wobbly wheel… and the brass-bound chest had turned into a splintered wooden box. An empty splintered wooden box.
Benjamin stared at the rickety old stuff and shook his head in disbelief.
BENJAMIN: I don’t get it! I’m the one with the superior smarts! The expert intellect! The magnificent mind! What went wrong?
GABRIEL: I don’t know, brother.
NARRATOR: Gabriel laid a hand on his sibling’s shoulder.
GABRIEL: But how about I go out, find some work, and come back and help our family?
NARRATOR: Gabriel looked at Mother. Mother looked back. Then, she nodded her head and let out a sigh.
MOTHER: Alright, Gabriel. You may give it a try. (beat) Good luck, son.
NARRATOR: So Gabriel packed his bags and set off across the countryside.
At the top of a rolling green hill he met a sheep… the very same sheep Benjamin had come across a day earlier... only now the animal was back to its bony and bedraggled state.
SHEEP: Excuse me, sir! I’m sorry to bother you, but could you please bathe me and give me a bite to eat?
NARRATOR: When Gabriel saw how dirty and hungry the sheep was, his heart went out to the woebegone creature. Without wasting a minute, he bathed the sheep with water from his flask and fed it some food from his bag.
GABRIEL: There you go, sheep!
SHEEP: Thank you, friend! I promise I’ll show you my gratitude some day!
NARRATOR: Gabriel continued on his way. As he passed through a sunny meadow, he came to a pear tree… the very same pear tree Benjamin had seen flourishing the day before, but now the tree’s branches were twisted and overgrown again, and the earth around it was dusty as a desert.
TREE: Excuse me, sir! I’m sorry to bother you, but could you please trim my branches and water my roots?
NARRATOR: Gabriel felt a wave of pity wash over him when he saw how unkempt the tree was. Without missing a beat, he used his pocket knife to cut back the branches, and sprinkled some water around the trunk.
GABRIEL: There you go, tree!
TREE: Thank you, friend! I promise I’ll show you my gratitude some day!
NARRATOR: Gabriel continued on his way, and as he strolled down a winding lane, he reached a well… the very same well Benjamin had seen the previous day, but now its water was blanketed with algae again, and its cup was dull and dinged.
WELL: Excuse me, sir! I’m sorry to bother you, but could you please clean my water and polish my cup?
NARRATOR: As Gabriel gazed at the poor, neglected well, his heart surged with compassion. In the blink of an eye, he skimmed the green muck off the water, and used a rag to polish the cup ‘til it gleamed.
GABRIEL: There you go, well!
WELL: Thank you, friend! I promise I’ll show you my gratitude some day!
NARRATOR: Gabriel continued on his way, and just as the sun was going down, he reached a farm in a valley — the very same farm Benjamin had visited. Just as she had done with Benjamin, the farmer hired Gabriel to help with the harvest, promising food and drink and a place to stay...
FARMER: ...and after one month’s time, you’ll get your payment.
NARRATOR: Gabriel threw himself into his work. And when the month was up, the farmer pointed to the horse stable, told him to go inside, look around...
FARMER: … and take whatever you need.
NARRATOR: Gabriel did as he was told. Inside the stable, he saw the same things Benjamin had seen: all sorts of horses, plus carriages and carts, chests and boxes.
Gabriel took a deep breath, then began making his choices. First, he selected a mule; he knew mules were small but sturdy, and made for excellent pack animals. Next Gabriel picked out a compact cart; it was just the right size to carry his family’s harvest to market. Finally, he chose a small box filled with hundreds of packets of seeds. Then he hopped into the cart and set off for home.
Eventually he rode down the winding lane, and spotted the well. He noticed its water was crystal-clear, and its tin cup was gleaming.
GABRIEL: Hello again, well! It’s lovely to see you!
WELL: Lovely to see you, too! Would you like a drink of water?
NARRATOR: Before Gabriel could answer, the tin cup flew into the air and landed right in his hand!
WELL: Drink all you’d like, friend! It was you yourself who was kind enough to help me when I needed it. And please - take the tin cup, as a token of my gratitude.
GABRIEL: Thank you, well! Thank you so much!
NARRATOR: Gabriel dropped the tin cup in his bag and rode on. He soon came to the sunny meadow and the pear tree. Its tidy branches were covered with plump, juicy, yellow pears.
GABRIEL: Hello again, pear tree! Your fruit looks so luscious!
TREE: Thank you very much! Would you like some??
NARRATOR: Before Gabriel could utter a word, two of the biggest, ripest, yellowest pears popped off the tree; Gabriel stretched up his arms and caught one pear in each hand.
TREE: Eat and enjoy, friend! It was you yourself who was kind enough to help me when I needed it. And please - take home as many pears as you’d like, as a token of my gratitude.
GABRIEL: Thank you, tree! Thank you so much!
NARRATOR: Gabriel stashed a dozen pears in his bag and rode on. Before long, he spotted the sheep grazing on the rolling green hill. The creature’s wool was fluffy and glossy.
GABRIEL: Hello again, sheep! My, don’t you look well!
SHEEP: Nice of you to notice, friend! Care for some wool?
NARRATOR: Before Gabriel could respond, the sheep blinked its eyes and a pair of shears appeared.
SHEEP: Take these for a spin, friend! Since it was you yourself who was kind enough to help me when I needed it, please - shear as much wool as you want, as a token of my gratitude.
GABRIEL: Thank you, sheep! Thank you so much!
NARRATOR: Gabriel sheared some wool from the sheep, stuffed the wool in his bag, and kept riding. It was late when he reached the drafty little farmhouse, and Mother and Benjamin were fast asleep. So Gabriel stowed his mule, cart and box in the tumbledown shed out back, then went to bed.
The next morning, Gabriel led his mother and brother out to the shed. And do you know what they found there?
Well, the hardy mule, the sturdy cart and the box full of seeds were exactly the same. Unlike the items Benjamin had brought home a month earlier, nothing had changed.
But when Gabriel reached into his bag, instead of a tin cup… he pulled out a silver cup - sparkling and shimmering. And instead of a dozen ripe yellow pears… he pulled out a dozen solid-gold pears - glittering and glistening! And instead of a piece of wool… he pulled out a cozy, fleecy blanket, and three fluffy, fuzzy sweaters — just right for keeping the family warm through the blustery winter months.
Benjamin was impressed… and confused.
BENJAMIN: But how did you do it, brother? I’m the one with the superior smarts! The expert intellect! The — (gets cut off)
GABRIEL: (knowing what he’s going to say) … the “magnificent mind”...? (beat) Yes, brother, I know. (beat) (slowly) But maybe, just maybe...
NARRATOR: Gabriel smiled.
GABRIEL: (slowly, sincerely) ...it helps to have a little heart, too.