This tale is dedicated to my grandson Josiah, whose mom is one of these children.
Reposted March 12, 2007
Once upon a time I was Mom to five young children. Several times each year we loaded the station wagon with toothbrushes, sleeping bags and the dog, making the six-hundred mile trip from Montana to Washington State, where lived my aging grandfather.
Keeping small children content to sit reasonably quiet during all those miles was my main task, along with being the only driver. My stories always kept us all occupied, interrupted only by the crunching of carrot and celery sticks, and the occasional call for bathroom stops.
My stories usually just pop out of that Great Beyond, where lie all good stories; most of the time I don’t know exactly where they will take us…they stretch out there in front of me, just like the highway we travel.
Once upon a time in a faraway land there lived—
This is the way I began all my stories, especially if I didn’t know where to begin.
--there lived a very rich fisherman. Not only did he know all the best places to fish—
“HOW did he know?” One of my boys always asked this kind of question. I usually tried to work the answer into the story, but most of the time I didn’t know either.
--Not only did he know all the best places to fish, but he was given the best prices to process his fish at the fish cannery.
“What’s a fish cannery? What’s it do?”
“What is a process?”
Too many questions too fast; better back up and do some fast story-changing.
So now you know about the rich man. Have I told you about all his poor neighbors? No? Well, wait until you hear! They were poor because they thought there were not very many fish in the sea.
They fished and they fished and they fished, nearly every day. But each night they brought home only a few fish, hardly more than enough to eat.
They didn’t have any fish left over to take to the fish cannery, in fact, so that meant they had no money either.
Hah! No money was something they all understood. This was a serious matter. There were no more questions at the moment; they were listening to see how the story would move along.
There was one man among them who was very wise. He told them they could have all the fish they desired, if they would mend their nets each night before going to bed.
The poor fishermen thought this sounded quite wise and good, but each of them privately thought it would be silly to mend his nets each night.
After all, why spend all their evenings mending their nets when there were no fish in the sea to catch?
‘What happened to the rich fisherman?”
These children were not going to let me take any shortcuts in the story. I’d almost forgotten about the rich fisherman.
The rich fisherman fell asleep on his fine fishing boat one day because he’d stayed up the entire night just counting all his money and he was too tired to fish. He dreamed of all the wonderful things he would buy. He dreamed of the wondrous places he would visit, just because he had so much money. But he too had a problem. He had no time to do any of these things.
“What kind of problem is that? He could just go on the weekends!” These kids could not understand what kind of problem he could have, with all that money. The miles were going by very quickly with this story.
He was so busy fishing and taking his fish to the cannery that he had very little time left to do any of the things he really wanted to do. Having all that money didn’t really give him the freedom he wished for.
I was really getting into this story. In my mind’s eye I could see this ‘poor’ rich man, wishing for what he did not have.
There was no time! He sobbed and he ranted and he cried out his sadness.
I was pounding the wheel in time to my words; peeking in the rearview mirror, I could see their eyes looking inward to their own view of the poor rich man. I continued with gusto, certain I could give them a good lesson along with the story. Parents have to be careful when doing this; children are smart, most of the time smarter than parents when it comes to manipulation…
Forgetting he had worn all his fine gold necklaces and rings while he was counting his many treasure boxes of money, he raised his hands in despair, but there was so much heavy gold on his hands and arms that he fell to his knees, tears streaming down his face.
He was really a good man in his heart. But he had been so busy making money that he quite forgot about anything else.
Tearing rings from his fingers, flinging gold necklaces off him, he cried out to God. “What shall I do?” he asked. “How can I fulfill my heart’s desires?”
Now I don’t know for certain if he actually heard a Voice or not, but here is what he told me about that day. He said he heard a loud Boom! Clouds lined up in the sky above him. Birds became quiet, and he heard—
“Did you know this rich man, Mom?”
“He heard a real Voice? That’s scary… what did he hear?”
“Aww, she’s just making this up! It’s not Real”.
“Quiet! Listen, now, she’s gonna tell us!” One of the older girls, a bit bossy at times to be sure. I continued, quickly now.
There was a loud Boom! Clouds lined up in the sky, the birds got really quiet, and that’s a lot! You know how loud the seagulls cry sometimes--
“MOM! What did he hear??”
Sometimes you just have to drag out the suspense in a story. But they were right; it was time; we were just about ready for a gas and bathroom stop.
The Voice said:
Let Go Of What You Think You Know About Everything.
Keep only that which takes you where you want to go.
Give the rest away!
Your Burden is their Dream.
I guessed the rest of the story about the poor fishermen who had holes in their nets but were too lazy to mend them would have to wait until the next long stretch of road.
Copyright April 2004 by Judith Leigh Bailey
All Rights Reserved