Sometimes children teach us the most wonderful lessons.
I remember the first time I learned that children are way more valuable than we give them credit for.
This story is a little bizarre. I know most people will dismiss it as the imagination of a lunatic, but I want you to know that this was something that actually did happen. And it changed the way I think forever.
The morning was colder than usual. I looked out of the window and groaned. It had snowed overnight. The snow stood thick along the driveway and was almost three feet thick. I would have to spend the whole morning shovelling. I groaned again.
It was still snowing when I got out of bed. I convinced myself that shovelling right now would be fruitless and I decided for the snow to die down. I walked over lazily to the kitchen to make myself a cup of steaming coffee. I turned up the heater on the way and frowned. It was already higher than usual. Maybe my wife had turned it up earlier. But it was still cold in the living room. I would have to get the heater checked now. This was turning out to be a rather unpleasant morning.
I walked into the kitchen and bumped into my wife. I irritably began complaining about the weather. She nodded in assent to everything I said. I stopped and enquired about the heater. She had turned it up in the morning and she was mildly surprised that that had not helped.
I had a quick bowl of cereal and got ready to leave. I looked out of the window again and to my astonishment it was almost a blizzard outside. I looked down in horror to see my car almost buried by the snow. I ran to the living room to call my boss and let him know that I can’t make it to work tomorrow.
I almost screamed when I saw a stranger in the living room. He was dressed in odd clothing – a shirt that too long and jeans that were too short. His hair was long and braided and his face burst into a thousand wrinkles when he smiled.
“Hello,” he said pleasantly. Despite my horror of encountering a stranger in the living room, I admired the fact that he had a smooth, sweet voice.
My wife hurried out of the kitchen when she heard a foreign voice and she let out a shriek when she saw the stranger. This was enough to wake my six year old son who came out running, swinging his cricket bat like a hero.
“Go away, bad man! Or I’ll hit you!” my son screamed.
I restrained him and pushed him behind me. I made a mental note to have a talk with about not trying to be the hero all the time.
“I am not a bad man,” the stranger said calmly. “I am here to help. I can grant you any wish in this time of peril.”
“What peril? What wish? What are you blabbering on about?” I asked flustered.
“The snow will envelope this city. This will be the end as you know it. I shall grant you one wish. Wish away wisely.”
“Gold! Diamonds!” my wife screamed immediately. “Unlimited wealth. We never have to struggle through winter again. We can move away to a distant warm place!”
“You fool!” I retorted. “Did you listen to anything he said? The snow is going to cover us. To bury us. It doesn’t matter if we’re rich, if we die!”
“Take us to Hawaii. To Florida! Somewhere where the sun shines all the time!”
“We can ask for that. But then what? With us there and all our possessions and money here, we will starve.”
“Take us to Florida and make us millionaires!”
“My lovely lady, that would count as two wishes. I’m afraid I can grant only one of those. You shall have to choose.”
“It is so difficult to choose… Almost impossible!”
The stranger smiled. There was a sad melancholy tone to it which my wife did not see, and even if she had seen it, she would not have understood it.
“How about this? When you transport us, we will be carrying whatever is in our hands right? So by logic and law, that also gets transported with us. Lets carry all our jewels and money and cards and head off to a sunny place. I’m so happy we invest all our money in jewellery.”
I grunted. It seemed a good idea as any. I cursed the blizzard that was going to wipe us away. Had it not been for that, I could have been a millionaire by now – if this man was authentic and not a sham.
“How can we trust you?” I asked suddenly curious. We spent so much time thinking about what we want that we never questioned the intruder.
“I beg your pardon?” he enquired politely.
“How do we know your magic is real?”
I could almost feel my wife’s eyes stretch wide open as the possibility dawned on her. The smile on the stranger’s face did not vanish.
“I got into your home using magic. I can do this using magic.” He turned a brass bowl on the table into gold and my wife squealed. “I must admit most people ask me this as the first question when I enter.”
My son smirked. I went a little red in the face but I decided to ignore him. I was about to say something else when my son interjected.
“Are all of them this stupid?” he asked. He was looking straight at the stranger. I was confused.
“Most of them are” the stranger replied. I was even more lost now.
“The wish is obvious. Give us a way to stop the blizzard. Why does everyone want wealth? This is the perfect opportunity to save the city. To be a real hero.”
“I suppose greed kills the hero in all of us when we grow older.” The old man smiled. He clapped his hand and the snow outside stopped. I was still gaping when the stranger turned to my son and handed him the bowl which he had turned to gold.
“Keep it” he said. “It will work only for you. It will turn back to brass if anyone else tries to steal it or sell it. But this is enough to make you and only you very rich. Save it for a rainy day. Or a snowy day, if I may.”
“I will” said my boy and I looked at him with all the pride in the world.
Now when I think back, the answer was so obvious. If only I hadn’t been so blinded by avarice. If only I had stopped for an instant to think of my neighbours. Maybe it is okay to always try to be a hero, because you never know when you might succeed.