There was a certain man who owned a large farm and, in one section of that farm, ran a sizable stream. The man was so proud of the stream that he often called it “My Little Stream.” He fished in the stream, took picnics on its banks, and was in the habit of showing it off to anyone who visited the farm.
One day, the man decided he could make the stream bigger by building a partial dam on one end of his property. Within days, the stream had swollen to a much larger and slower-moving body of water. The man built a small dock and put up a sign in front of the dock to let passersby know they were viewing “My Little Stream.”
A few years later the source of the stream was diverted by a highway project and, within weeks, the farmer’s stream had dried up completely. Being a practical man, he decided to fill in the bed where the water had run in order to create a new pasture for his cows. And even though there was no longer any visible sign of the stream that had once run through the area, the man still called the pasture “My Little Stream.”
A decade passed and the man decided to sell his farm to a land developer who wanted to build a subdivision of homes for people in the nearby town. After touring the farm with the farmer, the developer was so enchanted with the history of the pasture that he decided to name his new housing development after it. He called it, “My Little Stream.”
The development was a big success but, over time, the houses grew older. Meanwhile, the nearby town continued to expand. A few more decades passed and, eventually, a large company came along and bought up all the houses and land in the subdivision in order to build a new shopping mall. It was a very large construction project and took more than two years to complete. When it was finished, a marketing firm hired by the company decided to preserve the name of the subdivision the mall had replaced. So they called the mall “My Little Stream.”
The mall held a big event the first weekend it was open and most of the town’s citizens came to take a look. One of the visitors was a young boy who had been dragged to the event by his mother. When they walked inside, the boy looked around for a bit, crossed his arms, and gave his mother an unhappy look.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
“I don’t see any water anywhere,” the boy said.
“I think we passed a fountain near the entrance.”
“Not that kind of water. I mean real water!” he said.
“What are you talking about?”
“You said we were going to ‘My Little Stream,’ Right?”
“Oh, that,” she said with a smile. “That’s just a name. There isn’t really any stream here. No real water.”
“Then why would they call it ‘My Little Stream’?” he said.
“You know,” the woman said, “I don’t have any idea.”
In learning, as in life, it is important to make sure that the story you’re telling matches the reality others are experiencing.