"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Sunday, December 12, 2004
The Real One (Part 1)
be-gin-ning Function: noun
1 : the point at which something begins : START
2 : the first part
3 : ORIGIN, SOURCE
4 : a good place to remember, a bad place to forget
He was hungry and without hope, and he knew that hopeless starving men do unspeakable things.
Tonight he sat in his four room home, burning the last candle, casting a meager flame that barely lit the room from end to end. Curled up in threadbare blankets, his three beautiful daughters slept fitfully in their own rooms after going to bed hungry again.
Tonight, he had reached the end of his rope. There was no more work in the village, Patera. The harvest had been poor and the field work went only to a select few because there was so little to do. Since his dear wife had succumbed to the pox that swept the town a few years before, it had been his job to raise his girls. They had grown pure and beautiful, strong and faithful. And now, he was going to do the unimaginable so that they would not starve.
His friends couldn't help him any more. The rest of his family had troubles of their own.
Come tomorrow, he would sell his virgin daughters into prostitution. He didn't have the money for dowries, he would have needed 300 gold pieces each for that. Without a dowry, there was no chance for a marriage. That amount of money was impossible for him to get now.
He stared at the candle as it guttered out. The blackness of the room seemed to reflect the guilt that was covering his soul. Please God, he prayed, stop me from this evil. Save my family.
At three in the morning not much is stirring. The village sleeps quietly and only a few feral dogs wander the streets, snuffling in the gutters.
A man darts furtively among the houses, quiet as the Mediterranean breezes that rustle the palm trees above. He steals up to the house with the father and three girls, and goes to one open window. From under his robe he produces a small bag. He carefully places it inside the window and vanishes into the night.
"Father!" the eldest daughter cried out as soon as she awakened. Oh no, he thought, she must have discovered what I was going to do today. How can I face her? He ran to her room, where she sat in the middle of the floor, staring at something in her lap.
"Father, Look!" she held it up. It was a hankerchief, and inside it was 300 gold pieces.
That day it rained, but it didn't stop the father from spending every waking moment trying to immediately arrange a good marriage for his eldest daughter. At the end of the day, it had been decided, the date was set, a fine young man and a good family. But where had this money come from? He had no idea. What the father didn't want to think about was that this had only paid for the dowry for one daughter, and there were two left.
When he arrived home, he found that his daughters had been performing some menial labor for some of the townspeople, and had managed to get dinner at least. But each of them was muddy from head to toe as a result. They each carefully washed their clothes, and each hung their robes and stockings near their chimneys so they could dry in the slight breeze that went up the flues. For the windows would have to be closed tonight, the rain was still coming down outside and a chill wind was blowing in from the sea.
Again, in the middle of the night, the same shadowy figure crept through the muddy streets. Reaching the home of the father and three daughters, he went to the middle daughter's window...closed! He gently tried the shutter, but it was latched from within. He stood back and looked at the house for a minute, then a smile crept across his face. He tied the hankerchief tightly, jumped up and tossed it perfectly down the chimney.
"Father!" the middle daughter screamed the next morning. "Come and see!" He ran to her room, and she was standing there with one of her stockings, holding a bundle wrapped in a hankerchief like the first. "Father, this was in my stocking this morning! I left it hanging in the fireplace to dry, and look!" Inside, there were 300 bright gold pieces. The bundle had apparently come right down the chimney and tumbled squarely into her stocking.
The father went out again, and before the day was out he had arranged yet another marriage with a good family for his middle daughter. Only one daughter remained. He did not know how he would get the dowry, but he now had faith that God would provide it. "God," he prayed, "Help me to find who is doing this so that I may thank him."
That night, a cold front moved in from the north. The rain stopped, the sky cleared and the temperature fell. The father lit fires in each of his daughter's rooms and securely latched each of the shutters to keep out the cold wind.
Later, the same shadowy figure darted house to house until he reached the home of the father and three daughters. First, he checked the window of the youngest daughter. Locked. Then he prepared to throw the bundle through the chimney and...wait, what was that? Smoke! He couldn't throw it into a lit chimney!
Perplexed, he did the only thing he could think of. He went to the door of the house and laid the bundle on the stoop. But as soon as he did, the door opened and there stood a man and a young girl.
"You?" said the father. He knew this boy. This boy's family was very wealthy, but the boy's parents had both died with the pox the same year as his wife. All of the wealth had, of course, passed to the boy. The father knew this boy to be a serious type, spending his days at the church questioning the elders instead of playing with the other children.
And here he was on the father's doorstep, saving his family.
"Come...Come in, please, out of the cold," the father said. the boy, looking embarrassed, complied.
"How can I thank you, son? You have saved my family, saved my daughters. Anything I have, anything I can do, is yours."
"There is nothing that I want, nothing to give in return," the boy said. "God quickened my heart days ago that your family was in trouble, so I have helped. But now that you know who I am, you must make me a solemn promise."
"You must promise that you will tell no one about me until I am dead."
And with that, Nicholas walked out into the cold Mediterranean night.
Nicholas decided after that to use his own wealth to help the poor and needy as he was able, especially the children. There are many stories of his benevolence and love towards children, but there are even more stories of his love for God and his devotion and faith.
After a few more years, Nicholas decided that he wanted to pray at the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem. He arranged passage on an Egyptian ship along with many other Christians making their own journey to Jerusalem. The first night out, he dreamed of Satan. "There will be a storm," he told the sailors, "but have faith and all will be well."
They laughed at him. That is, until the storm came up on them. The winds rose and howled, the waves tossed the ship to and fro like a cork. One sailor plunged tot he deck from the rigging, and the others came to Nicholas and begged him to pray for the ship to be spared. Nicholas and the other Christians prayed, and the storm ceased.
The man who fell from the rigging, however, was dead.
Pitying him, Nicholas prayed also for him, and God brought life back to the sailor.
When the ship docked, word spread quickly about the holy man from Patera. People came from miles around to have Nicholas pray for them and be healed. Finally, Nicholas prayed at the tomb, and even though he wanted to stay he returned to Patera where he becomes a priest.
One night, God tells him to travel down the road to a town called Myra, also known as Smyrna.
And there, things kick into high gear.
(continued in part two)
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
Sir Winston Churchill