Friday, June 09, 2006

Heart of Gold

Once there was a little boy who had a heart of gold. It was his most prized possession, and often he polished it carefully to make it gleam like the sun. Every day he wore it around his neck in a soft velvet bag to keep it protected, but it was so shiny that one could still see the glow of it through the fabric. The little boy loved his heart of gold, and would show it to every one, every where he went. They were fascinated and told him how beautiful it was, and his parents were proud.

Soon the day came when the boy had to attend school. At first the kids at school weren’t quite sure what to think of his heart of gold. It was quite different from their hearts, after all. It was a little shinier, a little bolder, and it stood out a little more. At first they were excited to see it and the little boy freely allowed anyone to play with it, lending it out at every opportunity.

As the years went on the little boy encountered a teacher who didn’t like hearts of gold. She thought his was far too loud, too shiny, and it distracted the children. It always interrupted her teaching, and every day she told the boy to put it away, hide it, and eventually she told him that it was bad to have it at all. Why couldn't he have one like the other children? Something must be wrong with him. The little boy began noticing small dents and scratches on the heart, and no matter how hard he tried to shine them out, he couldn’t. He began to be a little more careful about who he allowed to play with it, because both the adults and the children had become careless with it. Some of the children were jealous, some thought it was far too flashy, and others just didn’t like it because it was different. They began to tease the little boy and leave him out of their games at recess. The little boy began to notice that the heart was becoming tarnished and shone less and less. He was very sad, because he could see that the heart was becoming ruined. Every day he fought valiantly to keep his heart of gold safe, but children and adults alike began poking and prodding it, playing roughly with it, and dropping it on the ground. Every day it came home with more scratches and dents, which the little boy would try to fix-and some he could, but many he could not. After awhile he gave up trying to make the shine again, because no matter how hard he tried to polish the heart, the gleam was gone.

Eventually, some adults decided that they had enough of the little boy’s heart of gold and the trouble it caused, so they took it away from the boy and threw it in the garbage. The little boy found it at the end of the day, broken into small pieces, all bent and covered in dirt. He gathered up the fragments in his little hands, took it home to his parents, and they all wept with sorrow. There was no replacing this heart of gold, because once it is destroyed, it’s lost forever. They did their best to fix it, but they didn't have the tools or the knowledge to make it like it was before. They managed to patch it together here and there, but it didn't look the same. They were overcome with grief and helplessness, because no matter how hard they looked, nobody seemed to know what to do to fix their little boy's heart.

The little boy then decided that he needed to keep the heart safe, so he build a strong wooden box to put it in. However, the box didn't keep the heart safe. Now the kids and adults begain poking and prodding the box, shaking it, kicking it, and dropping it on the ground. The boy, determined to keep his heart safe, made the box bigger and stronger each time it was broken. The boy refused to let anyone but his parents see his heart of gold, because by now he didn’t trust anyone.

The box was difficult to take to school, and often got in the way. The kids didn’t want to play with the boy because he had to carry this large box everywhere, which made him tired and grumpy. Teachers were annoyed because the box took up too much space in the classroom and prevented the boy from doing his work. The boy’s parents pleaded with him to stop adding to the box, but the boy was determined to keep the heart safe so every day he added more nails, more wood, and finally, cement. Nobody is going to see my heart anymore, he thought. I’m tired of constantly trying to fix it. The box by now was so huge, so heavy, that even the little boy’s parents couldn’t see a glimpse of the heart anymore. They wept with frustration and sadness because while they knew it was in the box, it became harder and harder to convince anyone else that it was actually there.

One day the little boy met a new teacher. She was kind to the little boy, and didn’t seem to pay attention to the huge box that he carried with him, for this teacher was different. She had known many children who carried their hearts in large heavy boxes, and she knew that inside that ugly box was a beautiful heart just waiting to be freed. The boy felt safe with her because she didn't allow anyone to play with the box, and never seemed annoyed or bothered by it's size. Instead, she gently asked the boy if she could see it-and because he felt safe with her, he showed it to her. Finally, he agreed to allow her to try to take it apart. He didn't really want the box dismantled because he'd taken such a long time to build it and was used to it's presence. However, he was tired of carrying it with him and longed to be free of it's heavy load.

The teacher realized that she didn't have all the tools and the knowledge to take apart the box by herself, so she gathered a team of highly specialized people. Some did small things like providing the blueprints to undo the box, others worked very hard at daily chipping away the cement. Some swept up the mess, and others kept the boy company while he watched. No job was too small or went unnoticed, because they all were valuable. Sometimes the boy helped, but other times he was upset and made them stop or would rebuild parts of the box when they weren’t looking. It was his box, after all. At times it was painful for him to watch them take it apart because he was afraid. What if they didn't like his heart of gold either? What if it was beyond repair? What if it simply wasn't there anymore?

After months of work, removing plank by plank, chipping cement away bit by bit, they found what was left of the heart of gold. Black, tarnished, bent pieces lay forlornly at the bottom of the box. The teacher gently picked them up, and again they set to work-soldering the pieces together, fashioning new ones, smoothing out the dents, and finally polishing until the surface was as smooth as glass.

On the last day of school, the boy came racing home to his parents. He skipped and ran freely now, for there was no cumbersome box to carry. Instead, around his neck in a soft velvet bag, was his heart of gold. They couldn’t believe their eyes, was this really it? The heart gleamed with a light that seemed to come from within, more brightly then it had ever shone before. Where there had once been dents and scratches was now as smooth as spun fairy glass. The heart was bigger now, because in the process of repairing it, the teacher and her team had put such loving care into their work that they added their own special gold to the process. The heart was so beautiful, so special, so radiant, that it took their breath away.

The boy and his parents wept, but this time there were no tears of sorrow. They were tears of joy.

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