The Gift

Deep in the wilderness of an African village, there lived a missionary. He was a loving man and his piety never came in the way of his love for his little flock. Unlike other more zealous men of God, this man’s primary- and sole- focus, was in giving service, not in collecting souls.

Naturally, the man was loved and revered.

There was a small boy of ten who love the priest with complete, dogged devotion. He would trail behind the priest all day long as the priest went about the little tribe. Neither love nor scolding worked in getting the boy to go home. From the time the priest stepped out of his small abode, until the time he told the boy he wanted to sleep, the boy followed him like a shadow.

The child was intensely and completely aware of the priest. His charcoal black, shining eyes never left the priests’ face even for a moment. After a while, the priest began to take his presence for granted, knowing he would always be there. Within a few months, the boy could anticipate his every wish even before the priest himself was aware of it. He would find a pitcher of cold water thrust in his hand just as he would begin to realize that he was thirsty. There would always be something to eat just as he would begin to feel hungry.

The priest, a humble man, was initially overwhelmed by the boy’s dedication and love. But when he saw that the flame of that devotion never wavered, the newness waned. He got accustomed to the adulation. First he began to expect it, then to take it for granted. The priest was human, after all.

Early on a beautiful Christmas morning, the priest opened the door of his humble dwelling to begin his day. As usual, he expected to find the boy parked on the front steps. The boy wasn’t there. The priest frowned, touched by a sense of unease.

As he stepped out, he noticed the boy running towards him from the direction of the forest. It was obvious the boy was emerging from it. The priest was amazed because it was still dark and the forest was full of wild and dangerous beasts. Fearing the worst, the priest ran towards the boy, arms outstretched.

Panting, with his breath whooshing raggedly in his chest, the little boy collapsed in the arms of his beloved mentor. The priest held him close, his eyes anxiously scanning the path the boy had taken, looking for a sign of pursuit from a wild beast. There was nothing. The forest was silent.

The priest looked down at the boy still ensconced in his protective arms, a mute question in his eyes. Holding his glance, the boy twisted his body and brought his hand forward. In it, was a rare, fragile bloom of cactus. This cactus grew deep in the forest. Once every two years, it blossomed at the crack of dawn. The bloom perished within minutes of sunrise. To venture into the forest was a daunting task even for the ferocious warriors of the tribe. For a child to undertake the journey, alone and at dark, was astounding. The priest began to tremble with the horror of the risk the boy had undertaken. In his love, in his relief, he became angry with the boy.

With placid serenity, the boy stood with his eyes downcast as the priest’s fury burst upon his little head. He listened, silently. Finally, when the priest’s ire was spent, he looked up at him and said, “I know you love this flower. It is Christmas today and this is my gift to you.”

“This flower is my gift…?!” the priest was incredulous and exasperated.

“The journey is part of the gift, Father”, the boy whispered humbly.



For me, this is not the point of the story. The point is a fictional projection once the boy’s state of mind has been established. In this story, the priest is a passive character. He is the receiver, not the do-er. The one moving the story forward is the boy. Let me take the story forward:

“The journey is part of the gift, Father”, the boy whispered  humbly.

“Oh, that’s sweet of you boy! I am happy surely. But it was silly of you to go through the trouble; after all this is just a flower. It wont even last the morning. Now you take this flower and put it inside, at my table. Then come with me, we have lots of work to do today.”

The priest looks off towards the left where some people have begun lining up in front of the makeshift, rudimentary clinic.

With a still, unmoving silence within him, the child lays the flower- and his soul- at the feet of his God. His eyes, which hold the last shreds of his most precious, fragile hope, remain downcast. The child doesn’t want the priest to bear the burden of his expectation. He awaits the verdict of his adored, ready to accept anything given to him.

The precious gift lies in the dust before the priest. It lies wrapped up in the thoughtfulness, love and adulation of the child. It was in the priest’s hands to give meaning to the gift. The boy’s walk through the forest at such risk to his person could be redeemed by just a look. The bloom was rare, but what of the devotion which prompted the boy to undertake the ‘journey’?

The priest doesn’t notice the boy’s silence- he is used to it. In a way, he was still exasperated and annoyed with the child for having upset his routine with a trifle. He was impatient for the day to begin. He was preoccupied with issues the day would bring and was looking away from the boy. With one fluid, unhesitating sweep of motion, the priest steps on the delicate bloom at his feet and grinds it into dust.

A lot more than just a flower was destroyed that Christmas morning.


8 thoughts on “The Gift”

  1. Dagny, I’ve never heard that story — and I love the last line: “The journey is part of the gift, Father” – it offered me solace on 6,002 levels this morning (not much prone to exaggeration, am I? lol – but seriously, that line touched my heart for a number of reasons).

    What you did in the epilogue fascinates me – to take a story and run with it, ahhhhh – so DagnyBrilliant (if that’s not already a word it should be!). Your ending came around from behind and smacked me on the noggen…

    meaning: it hit me in a surprising way. First I was touched by your epilogue because of the truth – and sadness – in it. This kind of thing happens TOO often (of course, once would be too often) – but then I noted something else…

    this fellow, this priest – wasn’t an obnoxious, self-serving goof of a guy that a story like this often has. He sounded like a decent sort: “He was a loving man…”, ” sole- focus was in giving service”, “Naturally, the man was loved and revered.”

    I wouldn’t mind having those words said about me (well, except the “he” part – lol – and maybe I wouldn’t be so keen on being SOLELY focused on giving service, I’d like some me time in there too) –

    and THAT is where the story crept in and whacked me on the head! How many times have I been guilty of the same thing? Even though I AM a loving person. Ugh! At least once, I’m sure (which, as stated above- is WAY too often) — so I’m taking this story as a wake up call, Dagny — opening my eyes a little wider to take in more of the gifts I’m given, and appreciate the journeys taken to get them!

    Thank you so much – your writing opens my heart!

    1. Dear Karen,

      You astound me truly..! I can bet you anything you like that you’ll be one of the rare ones who will make THAT connection. I deliberately added that Epilogue. It happens once too often… and sadly enough we end up doing it to the people who matter most to us… simply because we get so used to their silences that we stop identifying the various flavors of it.

      I was talking to someone the other day and we were talking about how people hurt each other. He said the pain should be forgiven if the hurt was caused unintentionally- or simply because the person was unaware… and insensitive.

      I didn’t refute that. But… the thing is… just because a mistake is made through absolute blindness…. or because the one making the mistake made an honest error in judgment… or because he was plain stupid… doesn’t mean it hurts any less. The emotional account will be depleted… though a bit less. An equivalent effort should then surely be made to make huge deposits into the account. Simply saying- I didn’t know it will turn out this way does not constitute an apology. It surely does not compensate.

      Do you know how desperately I seek the validation your words bring to me…? Do you know you make me tear up each time..? It is so big, this gift you give me, that my words of thanks seem puny in comparison. Still, thank you Karen. 🙂

      Sending love,

  2. Dear Dagny,
    Spiritual illiteracy!!.. and that is what this missionary exhibits here in your story!!
    The young boy’s love and devotion towards him didn’t inspire him to recognize god in others and this is one of many shortcomings among missionaries nowadays. Their ulterior motive behind community service is nothing but conversion! 😉 And I am not against people converting to other faiths. It is their choice anyway.
    The priest in the story has his secret agenda behind his service. 😀
    love and regards

    1. Dear Bharathi,

      I’d like you to read the story again. AND I’d like you to read Karen Caterson’s comment on this post. Then we’ll discuss Spiritual Illiteracy. 😀

      Nice term that, Spiritual Illiteracy.. 🙂

      Love and hugs, always,

  3. Dear Dagny
    So sorry for coming late! ..was so busy with h’ works and assignments.

    It hurts when the people you love and genuinely care don’t care about your feeling. right?
    I was hurt when you disappeared after posting your concluding part of ‘cindered dreames” wooosh you were gone for several days without any trace, without any hope of you ever returning to the site!! At that stage, I was at a loss as to where to go and ask, whatever might have happened to you! And that unannounced disappearance was really hurting! :D. Believe me, you don’t know how many times I came to the site to see if you were there and then left terribly disappointed and hurt! 🙁 I know you didn’t do it on purpose, but still it was hurting! 🙂 The same goes to the priest!! 😀
    No doubt he was a good man. He knew the boy was around him always, ready to help, take care of his needs and give his love and devotion, but the priest failed to reciprocate his love in anyway..someway!
    After all he is a man of God. He knows Jesus loves children more than anything. They are compared to angels and that is what bible says. LOVE! If you love and care about someone show it.
    It was his love that made him take that journey into that deep forest before dawn looking for that flower, so he could show the priest his love, but the priest took his all effort for granted. the trouble the boy undertook to bring that gift to him was under appreciated/devalued! 🙁
    Where’s his spiritual wisdom gone? Isn’t he spiritually illiterate? Jesus would have knuckle rapped the priesty if he were around! 😀 😀
    hope everything is fine with ya!
    love and a tight hug for missing you for no of daiiis 🙂

    1. Dear Bharathi,

      I think we both mean different things when we say ‘spiritual illiteracy’. To me it means something wantonly done. There is an aspect of volition in it… as if the mistake is made not because he didn’t know, but because he didn’t care enough to bother knowing. At least, that is what I understood you to have implied.

      If that is what you meant, I cannot agree with you. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the priest didn’t make a mistake… in fact that is the whole point of the story. What I am saying is, he didn’t realize what he was doing. A thing almost all of us are guilty of at sometime or the other. This doesn’t really make us illiterate, does it..?

      Spiritually out of sync… yes. With that I will agree. 🙂

      Everything is indeed fine with me. And you will no longer be missing me… much. For I am back. 😀

      Loads of love and hugs….

  4. Dear Dagny,

    We are such a Mutual Admiration Society! It’s wild-wonderful how our words (and hearts) keep blessing each other.

    And what you said here in the comments: that the pain is the same, regardless of the motivation/awareness of the pain inflictor — so true!

    Sending love,


    p.s. Dearest Dagny – you do not need my validation. Nevertheless (and for whatever it’s worth) — I am hereby sending you every ounce of validation I can summon! May it wrap you with love, joy and peace – and mirror to you the glory that YOU are.

    1. Dear Karen,

      We ARE such a MAS aren’t we..? He he… but I love it..!

      And I don’t agree with you postscript. I need your validation. It is worth more than you can imagine… and far more than I can ever tell you. For this, I am willing to be tongue-tied though. 🙂

      With loads of love and light…

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