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A children's short story with a moral: A Bag of Feathers
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Long ago and far away, in another land there lived a young man called WyMi who was very, very rich. He lived in a beautiful mansion in the country and his land stretched as far as the eye could see. He owned so much gold and silver that it could not even be counted. Unfortunately, not only was he extremely wealthy, he was also extremely foolish and what was worse he was mean and unkind.
One by one he lost all his friends who could not tolerate his selfishness and his miserly ways. Soon he had no friends left at all and he came to realise that there are some things that money just cannot buy.
“I am so lonely,” he thought miserably one day. “Where have all my friends gone?”
A little voice from deep inside his heart answered him sternly. “You have driven all your friends away with your rude and thoughtless ways.”
“Have I?” said WyMi in surprise. “How did I do that?”
“What about your best friend, MeToo?” demanded the voice. “When his wife almost died and he asked you for help, what did you do? Did you help him?”
“Well – no,” replied the young man doubtfully. “But I can explain. You see I was rather busy at the time.”
“What about your own cousin?” the voice continued. “He is as poor as a church mouse and sometimes has nothing more to eat than a crust of bread. But when he asked you for one piece of silver so that he could buy food for his starving family, did you give it to him? No! You shouted at him and called him horrid names and then you turned him off your land.”
“NoWin is lazy,” insisted WyMi stubbornly. “He should work harder for his money.”
“And what about MySing?” asked the voice softly. “What did you do to her? She told you a secret, a very special secret and she trusted you not to tell anyone else. Can you remember what happened next?”
“Yes,” said WyMi beginning to look ashamed. “She refused to marry me because I laughed at her and I told other people. She felt that she couldn’t trust me any more. Perhaps I have behaved rather badly but what can I do about it now?”
“Think long and hard about your behaviour,” said the voice. I am sure your conscience will direct you to do the right thing”.
“Can’t you tell me what to do?” begged WyMi. “I - I’m afraid that perhaps I don’t have a conscience.”
“Oh yes you do,” the voice assured him. “That is why you are listening to me now.”
“Are you my conscience?”
But there was no reply
“Where have you gone?” he asked in alarm. “Please don’t leave me. I need you to talk to me. No one else will. They all turn their backs when they see me. Oh I do so badly want to have friends again. I will do anything if only I can win back my friends.
The voice was silent.
“I know what I’ll do,” thought the young man suddenly. “I’ll go and speak to the wise old man in the next village over the hill. He will tell me what to do.”
WyMi set off for the next village immediately and approached the wise old man, who did not seem in the least surprised to see him.
WyMi bowed low before the old man and spoke more humbly than he had ever spoken before. Quickly he told him all that the voice had said. The old man said nothing for a while and then he looked at WyMi. “Are you really sorry for everything you have said and done to hurt the people in the town?”
WyMi nodded his head earnestly. “Yes, I am. I really am. Tell me what I can do to make everything right again.”
“It will not be easy,” said the old man. “Are you sure you want to do this”
“Oh yes, quite sure.”
“Then what you must do,” said the old man slowly, “Is to take the biggest sack you can find and fill it with feathers. You will need 1 feather for every person that you have hurt or wronged in your lifetime.”
“Yes? Yes?” said WyMi eagerly. “Then what shall I do?”
“Then, at the dead of night when all in the world are asleep, you must place one feather on the doorstep of every person that you have ever hurt.”
“I’ll do it!” said WyMi with determination. “I’ll do it this very night.”
So, that night, long after all the townspeople had taken to their beds, a lonely figure, carrying a big sack over his shoulder trudged through the town, placing a feather on every single doorstep. It took him a very long time and he was very tired but at last, just before the sun peeped over the horizon, he placed the last feather.
Happily he made his way back to the old man.
“I’ve done what you told me. Now what must I do?
The old man looked at him with great compassion. “Now, you must go and pick every feather up.”
The young man stared at him aghast. “But, I can’t,” he said at last. “The wind will have taken some of them. Others will have been picked up and thrown away. I can’t get them all back again.”
The old man nodded his head sadly. “No, you can’t,” he said gently. “And, just as you cannot retrieve all the feathers, so can you also not retrieve all the unkind words that you have spoken or the hurts that you have caused other people. You may be truly sorry, and I do believe that you are. God will forgive you, but nevertheless, you will still suffer the consequences of your sin. Go now and show love and kindness to all people, even to those who dislike you and refuse to forgive you.”
© Denise Pienaar 2010