In which we celebrate Saturday Stories: my best "pledge drive" story
Fiddle and I had a great ride in the October sunshine today...
and I'll write more about it soon. I got some awesome photos and had a wonderful day in sunshine--the kind of day you can remember in the middle of February, when the rain has been falling for 4 months, and will fall for an additional 4 months.
For now, I want to share one of my favorite stories. It comes from the Jewish tradition, and was told to me originally by storyteller Eric Kimmel more than 15 years ago. I have used my Storyteller's License to change the story to suit my own somewhat nefarious purposes.
I hope that you enjoy this little story...and who knows? Perhaps it will inspire someone to action at the end.
The Storyteller's Blessing
Once upon a time there were two brothers. One was poor, and kind, and generous.
The other was....not.
The poor brother lived with his wife and children in a tiny house surrounded by their friends and neighbors. This man loved music and stories. He could never pass by a street musician without putting money in the instrument case. He could never pass by a storyteller without stopping to hear the end of the story, and to clap and cheer and invite the teller to join his family for dinner. He could never hear a public radio membership drive without calling to pledge his support.
His wife knew about the generosity of her husband, and, in order to keep him from driving the family into bankruptcy, she would sometimes mislead him about the state of their finances. Still, it wasn't unusual for them to come to the last of their resources before they came to the last day of the week.
One afternoon the man came home from work and his wife met him at the door. She handed him a dollar, and asked him to walk down to the corner market to buy milk for dinner.
"The corner store, mind you," she said, "and not downtown where the musicians and storytellers will charm the money from your pocket. It's the last dollar we have until payday, so please, just buy the milk and come straight home."
He walked towards the corner store with the best of intentions...and he almost made it. But then he heard the sound of clapping, and laughing, and the cadence of a storyteller's voice.
Forgetting all about the milk, and dinner, and his wife's warning, he followed the sound...up the street, past the corner store, further and further until finally he found the crowd gathered around a storyteller.
She told an astonishing tale, of love and adventure, of betrayal and redemption. The man was transfixed, and when the story was ended and the crowd began to disperse, he approached the storyteller, shook her hand, and praised the story. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the only money he had: the dollar that his wife had given him.
"It isn't much," he said, "but I must give it to you, for the wonderful story you have given to me."
She looked at him carefully, and then smiled. "Is this the last money you have?" she asked.
The man looked embarrassed. "Well, yes. My wife told me to get milk for dinner...but really, it's more important that you take it, for your story."
She took the dollar from him, and put it into her pocket. "A gift such as yours must be repaid with another gift. Let me give you a blessing." She took his hand and said, "Here is a blessing from me to you: the first thing that you do when you return home, may that thing go on forever."
And then she picked up her bag and walked away. And the man never saw her again.
He returned home, not really thinking about the blessing she had given. His wife saw him coming up the sidewalk. She could see that he was not carrying milk. She met him at the door.
"I don't want to hear anything," she told him. "Please, just go to the bedroom. Under the bed is a box, and in the box is the very last dollar we have until payday. No fooling around this time. Please just take the money to the store and get milk and come home."
The man went into the bedroom, and reached under the bed for the box. Inside it, he found four quarters, which he removed and put into his pocket. Then, he closed up the box and pushed it back under the bed.
But when he pushed the box, he felt something inside rattle.
That seemed odd. Hadn't he just taken out the four quarters?
He pulled the box back out and opened it up. Inside the box were four quarters. That seemed very odd. He removed the quarters and put them into his pocket.
Then he closed up the box and pushed it back under the bed. And when he pushed the box, he felt it rattle again.
He pulled the box back out, opened it up, and saw that inside there were four more quarters.
It was then that the man remembered the storyteller's blessing.
Excitedly, he called to his wife, and showed her the box, the quarters. Together they spent the entire night pushing the box back and forth, retrieving quarters.
In the morning, they called all their friends and neighbors and invited them to a party. They bought food, and drinks, they hired musicians and storytellers, and they even invited the local public radio station to broadcast their membership pledge drive from the party. Everyone in town was there, and everyone ate and drank and danced and talked late into the night.
Including the generous man's brother. Remember him?
He came to the party, and couldn't believe what he saw. His poor but generous brother never had enough money for groceries at the end of the month, let alone a party. What had happened?
He asked, and his brother told him everything: about the storyteller, the gift of money, the blessing, the quarters.
"Humph," said the brother, who was neither generous nor poor. "My brother wasted a perfectly good blessing with mere quarters. I will get a blessing for myself and show him how it ought to be done."
The next day, that man set off through the town, looking for storytellers. Wherever he found one, he waited impatiently for the end of a story, and then stuffed money into the tip jar. When no blessing came from a storyteller, he moved onto the next.
At the end of the day, he found the very last storyteller in the town. As before, he waited for the end of the story and then put money into the tip jar. The storyteller looked at the money, and then looked at the man. "Is this the last money you have?" she asked.
Well, it was the last cash he had in his pocket. He certainly wasn't going to tell her about the money at home, or in the banks, or invested in blue chip stocks.
"Why, yes, it is."
"A gift such as this deserves a blessing," she told him, and she took his hand.
"Wait!" he said. "I want exactly the same blessing that you gave to my brother. He wasted his, but I won't waste mine."
"I cannot give you your brother's blessing," she told him, "for every person is unique and so each blessing much be unique."
The man insisted that he wanted exactly the same blessing that she had given his brother, and finally she agreed. "For all the good it will do you," she said, "When you return home, the first thing that you do, may that thing go on forever."
He practically ran home. He would not waste his time with mere quarters.
He got out a box of gold coins.
And then he thought: I will be here for quite a while. I should use the toilet before I get started.
And if the good lord has not yet taken pity on his soul, he is still there.
I'll be on the air Sunday morning, October 3rd, from 9 to 11 Pacific Swampland Time.
If you want to pledge online or call the station while I'm there, I'll dedicate a story to you or to somebody you love.
And who knows?
Maybe I'll toss in a blessing as well.