There was once a farmer who had 50 donkeys. He used them to till his fields, and he sold the fattest and healthiest as pets.
The farmer, known as the Master, worked the donkeys too hard and fed them too little, so they decided to do something about it: They chose one donkey to be their king.
It was the duty of the Donkey King to visit the Master every week and demand better living conditions: more hay and less work. The Master, however, had no patience for a demanding donkey, and often punished the king by kicking him.
The Donkey King was granted special benefits for making demands of the Master. He taxed the other donkeys by taking a small portion of their hay; he slept in the largest stall in the barn; and because he was royalty, he attracted a pretty jenny to be his mate.
One spring day, the Master sold the Donkey King to be someone’s pet, and it was time for a new king to be chosen. Two jacks wanted the crown, and on Saturday night, after a week of hard work, they gave their speeches in the barn.
The first jack, whose name was Grey, said, “If you choose me as your king, I will ask the Master to increase our portion of hay. I will also ask that he reduce our workload in tilling his fields. But I will be honest. The Master is a stubborn man, and is unlikely to change his mind. I will, however, go to him every week no matter how hard he kicks me.”
The donkeys stared at each other. No one was excited by Grey’s speech.
The second jack, whose name was Sunshine, delivered his speech. “If you choose me as your king, I will persuade the Master to double our portion of hay. I will also ensure that only the 10 strongest donkeys work in the fields. The rest of you will no longer have to do hard labour.”
Hearing this, the donkeys got excited, and the sound of “Hee-haw!” filled the barn.
Sunshine continued, “I know that the Master is a stubborn man, but by engaging him in a positive and open dialogue, I will change his mind.”
A vote was then taken, and all the donkeys—except the 10 strongest who would have to labour in the fields—elected Sunshine to be their king.
The next morning, Sunshine went to the Master’s house, and sat on his lawn until the old man came out.
“Good morning,” Sunshine said with a smile. “It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?”
The Master, who did not speak donkey, wondered, “Why is that jackass sitting on my lawn?”
Sunshine began confidently, “I am the new king, and I believe it is in your self-interest to give us twice as much hay to eat. If the donkeys eat more, they will work harder, and it will increase our value as pets because no one wants to buy a skinny, sickly-looking donkey.”
The Master stared at Sunshine, and then he frowned.
Sunshine continued, “I also wish to inform you of a change in our labor agreement. The 10 strongest donkeys have volunteered to till the fields. Starting tomorrow, the other 39 will be given rest from hard labour. This will allow them to grow fatter, and then you can sell more of them as pets.”
The Master had heard enough. He walked up to the braying donkey and gave him a swift kick in the rear end.
Sunshine, realizing that his demands were rejected, returned to the barn and told everyone, “The Master is considering my request for a double portion of hay, and I am hopeful that we will see a workload reduction in the near future.”
The following Sunday, Sunshine went to the Master’s house and made a similar speech. But that day, and every Sunday after, the result was the same: Sunshine got a swift kick in his hindquarters, and sometimes two or three.
By mid-summer, all the donkeys were angry because nothing had changed on the farm.
In late fall, after their last day of labor in the fields, they gathered together in the barn and demanded that Sunshine abdicate his throne.
One donkey yelled, “You lied to us!”
Sunshine, however, refused to give up his crown. “I have been truthful to you from the start,” he said. “I am in negotiations with the Master, and I am hopeful that there will be an increase in our portion of hay and a workload reduction by next spring.”
Grey shouted, “You broke the promises you made!”
Sunshine thought carefully for a moment and said, “No, when I campaigned to be king, I set two major goals, but I didn’t set a deadline for achieving them.”
After this, the donkeys became very quiet. They stared at each other; they stared at Sunshine, and then the sound of “Eeyore!” filled the barn. They evicted Sunshine from his stall, ate his extra stock of hay, and made so much noise that the Master could hear them in his house.
Moments later, he entered the barn with a whip, started cracking it, and the donkeys opened their eyes wide in fear.
The next day, they were still in pain from their wounds, but they were happy when the Master sold Sunshine to be someone’s pet.
All the donkeys (except for Grey) were filled with hope. They would soon elect a new Donkey King, and a new king brought the possibility of positive change.