Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Gift

Once upon a time a poor man wished for riches. When he woke the next day he found a small leather sack on his doorstep. When he picked it up he heard a voice whisper, "inside this sack you will find a coin. Take the coin and another will appear. Take as many as you wish. But you may spend none of them until you throw the sack in the river where it will turn into a fish."

The man opened the sack and saw that inside was one gold coin. He removed the coin and looked in the sack again to see another gold coin appear. He spent all day and all night reaching into the sack and removing the coin that was there. The next morning he had filled a sack with gold coins. He was also hungry and with no food in the house and not yet wanting to throw away the sack so he could spend the coins he had retrieved thus far, he went into the street to beg. With what he was given he bought bread, returned to his house and continued to draw coins from the sack. Soon he had several bags filled with gold coins. The next day, waking hungry, he took the magical sack down to the river. But he couldn't bring himself to throw the sack away. He returned home, placed the sack on his table, and then went into the street to beg. And so it went. Day after day he drew coins from the sack and whenever he brought the sack to the river he was unwilling to let it go.

Many years later he died. And when people came to bury him they found his house filled with gold coins but not a scrap of food to be found anywhere.

How many of us hoard our gifts and beg to eat? I fear that i am guilty of this. It is especially hard, and therefore all the more important, to remember the magic of gifts when what is needed is rent money. There is such abundance all around us and yet we are dismally bad when it comes to sharing such abundance equitably. Folktales are replete with treasure, magic tables that set themselves with feasts, magic bags that fill themselves with money, magic helpers who always have the right word, deed, tool. But such things always require that something be given in advance or in return - from a kind gesture to a helping hand. The gift always has to keep moving. When the gift stops moving it dies. And so it is with stories. Every story i have ever learned has felt to me like a gift. And they are gifts. And i delight in passing on these gifts. Even while i struggle, like so many of us, to pay the rent.

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