Thursday, December 22, 2005

Reason to believe

And with this, the old man, who was hardly more than a heap of bones, ended his story. There in the hut, his words made the loneliness and fear each of them felt, less lonely, less fearsome. Not because reason to fear was lifted magically from them, for it was not, but because the story provided them with strength.

There they sat, the old man and the old woman, on that evening of the holiday time. He revealed to her that it was near the time of Chanukah, the time of year he and his loved ones normally gave
gelt, small gifts of coins. And she told him it was somewhere near Christmas, a time of year during which her people also exchanged gifts. And they smiled sadly, for both their traditions required gifts and there they were with absolutely nothing to give anyone. They sat in silence, until suddenly these words leapt out of the old woman's heart.

"I know. I will give you the gift of the sky above us."

And she could see that something swept through his heart, for he closed his eyes for a long moment, inhaled deeply, then opened his eyes again, and looked directly at her. He replied, "I am honored to receive your gift to me." And the old woman expected him to say no more.

Then all of a sudden he spoke again. "And... and I give you in return, the gift of these stars overhead."

"Also I am honored," she said. And they sat on in mutual heartache, a deepening joy, and contemplation.

Words rushed again into her mouth, from where she did not know. "And I return the favor to you, for I will give you the... the gift of the moon this night."

He remained silent for a long, long time. He was searching the sky for something else to give, but there was nothing left, for they had given everything that could be seen in the night sky. So they sat in utter quiet.

At last the words came to him. "Ah, I see it now. I return your kindness by giving you the story that I have just told. Keep it safe. Carry it out of these woods in great health."

And they nodded, for they knew that a strong story, perhaps more than anything else, could light the dark fields and forests that lay ahead for each.

In that hut, on that night, in that wood, they dared to recall their pasts; times of laughter, candlelight, steaming food, friendly faces, arms about their shoulders, the music of fiddles, the dancing and rosy-faced children. They drew on the warmth of the gifts given, certain for that time at least, and perhaps forever, that there was reason to believe in the ultimate goodness of humans.

Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs, The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What is Enough (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993) ISBN: 0345388356, pp20-22.