Friday, May 9, 2008

Jeremiah's Bedtime Story

A Hundredfold
a fable of sacrifice

Once upon a time there was a boy named Jeremiah. He lived with his family in a big white house at the foot of a mountain. One day Jeremiah took his dog, Sawyer, for a walk in the woods. They followed the trail up the canyon, all the while searching for little treasures like rocks and feathers and pebbles. Before they knew it they had gone deeper into the woods than they’d ever journeyed before, and they were just about to turn back when they were greeted by a strange little man with a long, scraggly beard. He had just appeared, slightly ahead of them on the trail, and said he had something to offer them. He stretched out a gnarly hand holding a small acorn that had apparently fallen from a great oak tree. He said he needed some help, and would be willing to give them this acorn in exchange.

“No thanks -- I have plenty of acorns at home.” But the little man said it was a magic acorn. “Yeah, right” said Jeremiah. “There’s no such thing as a magic acorn. Everybody knows that.” But the little man insisted that this magic acorn had amazing powers. “I’ll trade it to you for everything that’s in your pocket right now.” Jeremiah felt in his pocket and pulled out three pennies. “Here,” he said, “This is all I have.” And he was amazed that the little man accepted his tiny offering of three pennies in exchange for his so-called magic acorn. “Thank you,” said the little man, “You will not regret this choice. You will be rewarded a hundredfold.” “A Thunderbolt?” asked Jeremiah. “I don’t need a thunderbolt.” “No,” laughed the little man. “A hundredfold. That means a hundred times whatever you gave me. That is the power the magic acorn holds.”

“In fact,” he continued, “For as long as you hold this magic acorn, whenever you give away all that you have to help another, you’ll be rewarded a hundredfold.” Jeremiah wasn’t sure whether he believed the little man or not,but at least three pennies didn’t seem like too much to give away. He stuffed the acorn into his pocket and the little man disappeared back into the bushes. Jeremiah and Sawyer turned around and headed toward home. As they walked away, they heard the little man chanting:

Be it silver or be it gold
We’ll give you a hundredfold.
He who offers all he hath
Will be rewarded on the path.

As they came to a sharp bend in the trail, suddenly there was a clap of thunder and something small tapped him lightly on the head. “Oh, no -- it’s raining!” Jeremiah held tight to Sawyer’s leash. “Let’s run!” But suddenly they were caught in a downpour. They stood still and watched in amazement as a shower of pennies fell all around them. The pennies dropped to the ground with a clatter of jingles and jangles and sparkled all over the trail at their feet. Jeremiah stooped to his knees and counted the pennies one by one -- there were exactly 300! He gathered all the pennies and stuffed them in his pockets till they bulged. Walking a little slower now, Jeremiah and Sawyer continued down the trail with a clang-sh-sh-ching as the pennies bounced in his pockets.

Nearing the entrance to the trail, Jeremiah and his dog were approached by a little girl. She was lost and cold, and needed something to eat. Jeremiah thought of the warm house and warm supper his mother had waiting for him, and wanted to help the little girl. He reached into his pockets and pulled out huge handfuls of pennies. Her eyes were round with surprise and delight as she held out her scarf to catch the copper coins. Jeremiah loved seeing the little girl smile.

Their steps were lighter as they reached the end of the trail and headed toward home. When they rounded the corner to turn onto their street, a huge gust of wind came up and the trees started to rustle and bend, sending their leaves floating to the ground. Looking closer, Jeremiah discovered they weren’t leaves at all, but dollar bills. Suddenly the little man’s song echoed in his head:

Be it silver or be it gold
We’ll give you a hundredfold.
He who offers all he hath
Will be rewarded on the path.

Sawyer immediately caught one in his mouth and started to chew it to shreds, as he does typically does with any stray paper, but Jeremiah caught it away and started gathering the dollar bills -- all 300 of them. He stuffed them in his pockets, and then when they wouldn't hold any more he stuffed them inside his shirt and tucked them in his sleeves and up under his pant legs. As they finished their walk home, he looked like a scarecrow, with dollar-bills peeking like straw out from under his sleeves and ankles, up around his neck and out of his pockets.

When he walked into the house, his two older siblings immediately swarmed around him, wondering where he got all that cash. “Jeremiah, remember you owe me that $10 you took out of my room last month?” “Jeremiah, that’s not fair! Give me back the money I gave you for helping me baby-sit last week.” “Jeremiah, what’s a little kid going to do with that much cash? I owe Mom and Dad so much money I’ll never be able to get my driver’s license.” Jeremiah rolled the acorn through his fingers. “Here!” he replied, suddenly realizing how desperately his siblings wanted and maybe even needed that money. “I don’t want it any more. You can have it all!” And he left Josh and Jordan to divide the $300 between them. Suddenly he was their hero.

That night before he went to bed he searched for a perfect place to hide the magic acorn. No place seemed secure enough somehow. Besides, he wanted to put it where he could see it, rather than hidden in a drawer somewhere. So he decided to leave it on his night stand, and he went to sleep with his dog curled up at the foot of his bed. In his dreams he saw the little man from the forest dancing and chanting:

Be it silver or be it gold
We’ll give you a hundredfold.
He who offers all he hath
Will be rewarded on the path.

The next morning he woke up noticing that his pillow felt a little strange -- almost crunchy. He pounded it with his fist, hoping it would return to its squishy self so he could go back to sleep for another half hour, but no luck. Finally he got up and looked inside the pillowcase and it was stuffed with $100 bills. Three hundred $100 bills! He did a quick calculation in his head: That’s $30,000!. Still in a bit of shock, he ran upstairs dragging the pillowcase behind him. He thought of all the things he could do with $30,000 -- how many bikes, Lego sets, and trips to Disneyland would that buy?

His mom and dad were upstairs going through the bills. They looked a little bit worried and stressed. Suddenly Jeremiah got a wonderful idea: He could give the money to Mom and Dad to pay off the remodeling in the basement. His parents looked at him in utter disbelief as he emptied his pillowcase onto the kitchen table. His mom started to cry and his Dad told him what a huge help that would be to the whole family. They hugged him tight and thanked him with all their hearts, promising that if there were any left over they would go on a family vacation this summer.

Jeremiah got ready for school, and then as he was loading up his backpack, he remembered the magic acorn on his night stand. He went back downstairs to grab it, and it had disappeared! How could that happen? He hadn’t even showed it to anyone, or told them how special it was. Why would anyone take a silly little acorn? then he noticed Sawyer in the corner chewing on something -- it was the magic acorn! “No, Sawyer!” he called out, and ran over to pull it out of his mouth. Sawyer thought it was a game and ran away, hoping Jeremiah would chase him. By the time Jeremiah caught up with him Sawyer had already started to bury it in the ground...what was left of it. Jeremiah gave up. He sat down on the porch with his head in his hands, thinking his magic acorn -- and all it could bring to him -- was lost forever.

“Jeremiah,” his mom called out the front door. “You need to start walking down the hill now or you’ll be late for school.” Obediently he picked up his backpack and trudged down the driveway, thinking all the while about everything he’d given up, and how none of it could possibly come back to him now. Then he thought about how happy he’d made the little girl, his siblings, and his parents. And he remembered that the whole adventure had started when he gave away just three pennies. He shrugged his shoulders and resigned himself to his penniless state, deciding that all tolled, it was still worth it.

Just as he walked to the edge of the driveway, a large armored truck pulled into the cul-de-sac. It was from Far West Bank. The driver rolled down his window. “Are you Jeremiah Parkin?” Jeremiah nodded, awestruck. “I have a delivery for you.” The next thing he knew, Jeremiah was watching the driver of the armored truck loading stacks and stacks of money into his bedroom. It was stacked on all the shelves in his closet, in piles under his bed, and even covered the windowsill. Three million dollars!

He walked outside, then broke into a run so he wouldn’t be late for school. All of a sudden he nearly bumped right into the strange little man he met in the woods yesterday. “How did it happen?” Jeremiah asked the little man. “I didn’t even have the acorn any more. My dog chewed it up and buried it.” “Ah, replied the little man with a smile. It wasn’t the acorn at all, was it? I gave you something far more valuable than a magic acorn yesterday -- a nugget of wisdom.” Jeremiah looked puzzled, so the man began to chant again:

Be it silver or be it gold
We’ll give you a hundredfold.
He who offers all he hath
Will be rewarded on the path.

“Was it true?” asked the little man. Jeremiah reviewed the events of the past day and nodded enthusiastically. “It’s still true. It’s always true -- with or without the acorn. And it’s true no matter what you give.” So from that moment on, Jeremiah looked for every opportunity to give away all that he had -- not just money and things, but his time and his talents and his smile and his love. It all came back to him a hundredfold. And he was the happiest boy that ever lived.

“Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
–Malachi 3:10

Sunday, May 4, 2008

All I Ever Need to Know About Mothering I Learned from our Sheltie

• Wake everybody up with wet, sloppy kisses.
Circle the house periodically to make sure your loved ones are all safe and accounted for.
Freak out if someone escapes without telling you.
• Make sure your bark (an upbeat attention-getter) is always worse than your bite (gentle, playful or non-existent).
Gather the whole family for mealtimes and activities.
• Constantly look back over your shoulder to be sure they’re still following you.
Tolerate LOTS of chaos and silliness.
• Good-naturedly allow everyone in the family to maul you to death
• If somebody wants to be with you, act like you don’t have anything else on your mind or your schedule.
• When somebody’s sick, sit vigilantly by their side.
• (Same goes for when somebody’s sad.)
• Keep one part of the house immaculately clean, and don’t worry too much about the rest.
Run to the door with joy whenever someone comes home.
Alert everyone if there’s an unfamiliar intruder.
• Take advantage of every opportunity to snuggle.
Play with the kids, indoors and out.
Put up with lots of teasing and hyperactivity.
• Hoard treats.
• Be gentle.
• Take naps.
Listen intently (even if you don’t understand a word they’re saying).
• Maintain a ready sense of adventure at all times.
• Give everybody a luxuriant bedtime pedicure. :)

Most important of all:
When people forget about you, ignore you, hurt you, shut you out, and maybe even step on them anyway.