New Story-The Gift

 

The Gift

12/2/2015

By

R. W. Thompson

 

            "Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Danny.  One day he found a magic lamp that would give him anything he wanted." 

            As Steven Jacobs begins his story, the swings in the park come quickly to a stop.  The merry-go-rounds stop twirling and the see-saws creak to a halt.  The play area of the park becomes very quiet, for the children have come to sit under the giant maple tree and hear their daily stories from the blind storyteller of the park.

            The old man leans on his cane, his face lifted to the warmth of the late spring sun.  He silently remembers how the faces of the children look as they listen eagerly to every word.   

            As he talks, there is no other sound.  When the tale is finished, the children clap loudly, not just for the story, but to let Steven know they are there and they appreciate him too.  The children realize that special gifts are hard to find and that the gift Steven has given them is very special indeed!

            Months before, Steven had been leading an ordinary life.  Behind him were forty years of teaching in public schools and at last, he had decided to retire.  Now he would have the time to travel and write books for children.  Then, while out for a drive on a beautiful summer day, he had the accident that had left him blind.

            The loss of his sight also brought darkness to Steven’s personality.  He withdrew into his private world and would talk to no one.  While he was in the hospital, his daughter had visited him daily and many times invited him to come and stay with her family.  He had declined the offer because he did not want to be a problem for anyone. 

            So he had decided to stay at a home for individuals that had lost their sight.  It was comfortable there, things were arranged and left so the residents could become comfortable with their placement and move about on their own.  And, no one bothered you unless you wanted to talk.  Now it was Christmas and they wanted him to come and stay for a visit.  Steven was very nervous.

            His greatest fear was realized the moment his daughter drove into her driveway and stopped the car.  His grandchildren raced from the house, hugging and pulling him in different direction.  “Read us a story grandpa,” yelled Meghan.

            “I can’t anymore dear, I can’t see the books,” he replied in a quiet voice.  Then, Steven heard his grandson, Daniel.

            “You don’t have to read them to us grandpa, just tell them to us.  The stories you make up are the best ones anyway,” he said.

            Steven considered this for a moment, he supposed he could do that.  He thought about a few that he knew he could remember and they would like.  “You’re right children.  Take me over to a chair by the fireplace and I’ll tell you some.  They brought him over to a comfortable old chair by the fire, where they could sit in front and listen to their grandfather.

            As he sat down, he began in a quiet voice the story of a beautiful magic unicorn that could fly its small owner anywhere in the world.  Before, when he told them stories, he could judge the effect by the look on their faces, but now he had to hear their reaction.  Now it was quiet, too quiet.

            “Well, how did you like it,” he asked?  There was no answer, the children were gone.  Just as Steven was about to call for them, he heard his grandson’s voice.

            “We brought some of our friends grandpa.  Can you tell us another story,” Danny asked?

            “Make it a Christmas story please grandpa,” pleaded Meghan.

            “Okay,” he replied, and in a soft voice he began the story of a little boy whose only gift for the child had been the music from his drum.  Halfway through it, he stopped telling it and sang the rest of it.  When he was finished this time, the children clapped loudly and the warmth Steven felt did not come from the fireplace.

            Steven continued to entertain the children for the rest of the holidays.  It became a habit, every afternoon at four o’clock, the children would gather in his daughter’s family room in front of the fireplace.  There, for one hour, he would tell them tales he remembered from his years as a teacher and others that he made up.   

            As the old year changed into the new, Steven Jacobs found a new happiness and a renewed feeling for life.  Giving the children the gift of his stories brought him out of his dark world and made him feel needed again.  His daughter and her husband had again asked him to stay with them.  The only condition was that in the spring, the stories would be moved from their family room onto their large covered porch.  Steven agreed!

            The children continued to come to listen to the stories.  Soon, there were so many they became difficult to control when the stories were finished.  The neighbors complained about the noise and the children running across their lawns.  They said the stories should stop.

            As the children gathered to hear his stories for the last time, he was sadder than he had been in a long time.  He didn’t want to stop telling the stories, but he did not want to cause trouble for his daughter’s family either.

            As he began his first story, his daughter entered the room and interrupted him to introduce a young man.  “This is Mr. Parks from the Children’s Club,” she stated.

            “I’m very pleased to meet you Mr. Jacobs.  I understand you have been telling stories in this neighborhood but they have to stop because of the noise.”

            “Yes, that is true,” said Steven.

            “Mr. Jacobs, I am from the Children’s Club and we would like you to become our official storyteller.  The pay would be small, but we would supply you with a room that can hold a hundred children and we will provide transportation to the club.  Will you do it?”

            Steven thought for a moment, then replied, I’ll do it, but on nice days during warm weather, I would like to tell the stories outside.”

            “That’s great!  You can use the park that is next door to the club,” said Mr. Parks.

            Since that day five months ago, you will find Steven either at the park or in the story room at the Children’s Club.  There he continues to give a gift that makes children’s faces light brighter than any Christmas tree.  Each afternoon, he continues one of the oldest arts in the world, storytelling.  He never lacks an audience and even though he can’t see the children’s smiles when the frog becomes a prince and carries off the princess, he can feel their closeness and knows that they are happy.  Feeling that, tells him that he is wanted and that is the only gift he ever really needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Stories From My Past & Present

3/20/2015 A true story!

The Hawk and the Golf Shot

     Last summer I was out on the course enjoying a great day with friends.  I was hitting the ball very well, (does not happen all the time) had gotten my first career hole-in-one on the 3rd hole, and after 5 holes on the front, I was 2 under par.  As I prepared to tee off at the sixth, a par three 190 yard hole, in the middle of my downswing, I heard a screech that caused me to jerk left and push the ball right, into the trees. 

     I looked behind me to my left and saw a Red-Tailed Hawk that had mistaken a piece of paper for a small animal.  He was still engaged with it, furious that it was not real.  The screech was his scream at discovering his mistake I guess.  At that moment, I was angry due to the missed shot and yelled at him to go away.  He looked up at me, gave me another screech and flew across the fairway and landed in the top of a tree in the general vicinity of the area where my tee shot had landed.  I tried to shake off the mistake and started walking down to look for my ball, all the while peering at this hawk sitting in the top of a pine tree, staring back at me.  I wondered what might happen next, and sure enough as I approached the area, he started flapping his wings and screeching again.

     While watching and listening to him, I stepped on something firm, moved my foot and discovered my ball in the first cut of rough right under the tree, about 45 yards from the pin.   By this time, (my partner who was laughing about it all the while) and I had gotten over it, and I was trying to just regain focus and get the damn ball on the green.  So, I softly asked the hawk if he would be quiet and just go away.  Now I know there will be unbelievers out there who refuse to accept what happened next, but that hawk screeched one more time, then flew down and landed in a tree overlooking the green.

     I was just happy he had left and did not think much more about it as I took a couple of practice swings to prepare to hit my next shot.  I stepped up to the ball, made my swing in a silent peaceful field and was amazed when the ball hit on the front edge of the green, rolled up and dropped in the hole for a birdie.  As soon as that happened, the hawk left the tree, swooped down toward the green, and then climbed straight skyward and flew off to the west.  I stood transfixed for a few moments as the whole event played back through my mind, and I swear that hawk was apologizing to me for making me miss the tee shot.  Did it really happen or was I just imagining it.  I think he did.  I know this, I went on that day to shoot a 76, the best round of my life and win first place money.  This is just another reason why I feel an affinity for Red-Tails and maybe understand some of the truth in my grandmother's stories. 

 

     This is the legend of the Hawks feather as told to me by my grandmother, who was part Cherokee. There are 7 clans of the Cherokee and she believed her family was from the Small Bird Clan. Stories change from clan to clan and even among the clan as various families have their own totems. My grandmother often told me that mine was the Red-Tailed Hawk.

                      Legend of the Hawks Feather

     Thousands of years ago, the Creator, Yo Ho Wah looked upon the earth one day and saw that the people of the Bird clan were not having many children and this troubled him greatly, for he knew that tribes must have children to remain strong. So, he sent the swift and virile Hawk, brother to the Eagle, and the fastest bird in the sky to bring his blessing upon the men of that clan.
     Hawk flew over the village in the cover of darkness and left a feather over many homes. Wherever he dropped a feather, the men in that house became very strong and virile and that house was blessed with many children, who grew strong and productive for the clan.
     It is said that a maiden, if given a hawk's feather before her marriage will be blessed with a strong and virile husband. You should place it over your bed and leave it always.

The members of this clan became the messengers of the Cherokee. They are responsible for teaching the importance of recognizing the whole pattern of life regarding positive and negative events. They teach keen observation, sharing and giving, interpretation of dreams, the birds, interpretation of their messages and their willingness for self-sacrifice for the sake of the two legged ones. They are responsible for collecting feathers earned by others because they were the only ones authorized to collect them.