By: Josette Williams Davison
Once upon a time there came to the earth a very great man. And the great man possessed all the words that ever were, or ever would be. But the great man was lonely surrounded by all his wonderful words, and he wished to share them with others. So he built a great city on a hill and in the midst of the city, he created a beautiful building of glass and silver and gold to house his words. And the words were enclosed in a single book. His spirit aglow with his plan, the great man opened and placed his book on a table for all to see and to read. And he invited everyone passing by his huge display window to pause and read the words.
But the people, in weather foul or fair, rushed by the window without stopping, heedless to what they were missing. Disappointed, the great man called upon his angels and asked them to bring more books, and to turn the pages endlessly. “Add to that,” he said, “thousands of words floating in the air so that those who wish to may capture the words and fashion them into books of their own.” Soon, fascinated by the word floating in the air and fluttering pages, the people began to stop and read, and to stuff their pockets with words from the air.
Some of the words covered dancing sheets of music, and could barely stay on the pages they were so full of life and longing. Flying overhead were more words bound in richly engraved covers and written by great philosophers such as Aristotle and Kierkegaard. Still more were written by poets like Emily Dickenson, or playwrights named Shakespeare and Arthur Miller, and authors like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and Mark Twain.
One day, an old woman, bent and faltering, clothed in rags, her hair gray and uncombed, paused to read, and was wrapped in a golden cloak of words set to music. And she became, once again, just who she was and had been—beautiful and fragile, and a singer of songs. The familiar words of her old ballads filled her with light, and sent her twirling about in front of the window in ecstasy. Children and adults, seeing her transformation, rushed to the window to see what they might be missing.
Presently, a richly dressed man shoved through the curious children and adults, blustering: “Out of my way. I was here first! Do you know who I am? I am a very important person, and you, .you are of little consequence.” Peering closely at the largest book in the window, the man read these words: ‘Take heed, for I look on the heart, not on the person.’ Stomping away, the man tripped over his pearl handled cane and cursed the sidewalk. Then, those who had been pushed aside, allowing the startled children to go first, stepped forward to read the words meant just for them. And some went away troubled, while others were strengthened and uplifted.
But the possessor of all the words found his deepest pleasure in the delight of children who came to read the words made just for storybooks and painted with bright pictures. And their laughter rang in the great man’s ears like tiny silver bells.
Still, there remained one dark figure, who passed by the window every day, his head bowed, his eyes fixed on the ground.
And though the great man knew the man walking in darkness was free to choose, sad at heart, he begged of his angels, “What can I do?
“Try again,” sang all the angels in chorus, and so he did, again and again forever.