The following is an imaginary story I wrote just for the love of writing, as well as for my love of the One this story seeks to honour. If you would like to send me a comment re this story, please click on the "contact me" button just below the "Remembering the Poor" book in the column to the right.
There was once a king who ruled over the people of a great city. The city had grown to be a vast and busy place – its many streets crowded with merchants, all aggressively shouting prices in order to sell their wares: pungent spices, bleating sheep, colourful rugs, and all manner of goods. Shoppers jostled one another on every street in search of products that would meet their needs and satisfy their cravings. Mules protested noisily as their carts were filled to capacity, and hollering children tugged on their parents begging for more as they shuffled among the crowds of shoppers and workers. There was a great deal of activity, though no one seemed particularly happy in their pursuits. It was a city of commerce and trade with no space set aside to provide rest from the din of the markets and the streets. It was a city of stone with busy, dusty roads, and no greenery to provide refreshment.
Deep in their hearts the people longed for something more than the daily drudgery their lives afforded them. They had long forgotten that their king had once been deeply loved on account of the joys he provided for his people, and the king’s palace was now a mysterious place that no one had ever entered and then returned from. And though the king would occasionally make brief proclamations to the inhabitants of the city, not even the wisest of the city’s counselors had ever seen the king himself. It was said by some that the only place in all the city that was green was within the palace walls, and some believed tales of the king having a life-giving power with which he could grow unspeakably beautiful blossoms even amidst the stones of the palace itself. Stories were told of a time when the entire city had been filled with foliage and palms and gardens, but even the oldest inhabitants had not been alive in those days. It was now just a memory that only a few still clung to.
But suddenly one day the city was stirred by a remarkable decree that went out from the palace – the king would have a garden planted in the center of the city for all his subjects to enjoy. It would be the beginning of a plan to make the entire city green again – a promise of plenty for the days to come. It would be a place to enjoy the coolness of soft beds of grass beneath the warm, blue sky; the tranquility of winding paths amid the gentle scent of blossoms all around; the striking colours and the lush greenery of a myriad of flowers and hedges and shrubs. It would be a place for the King’s people to find peace amidst the labours of their days, and a place to be reminded of the goodness of their king.
So the king commissioned gardeners to plant the garden using the choicest of trees and seeds and soil. And it was indeed beautiful! The people marveled at this jewel of peace and stillness amidst their busy city lives. They enjoyed the garden just as they were meant to enjoy it, and felt gratitude to their king for his kindness in providing it.
But as time passed, the people began to think more of their pleasures in the garden than of the king who had provided it. They began to use the garden for their own selfish pursuits, and it became a place of carousing and revelry. The garden became a loud and unruly place. Flowers were trampled, and paths became littered with debris. Trees were cut down for bonfires and grassy places were trodden upon and became muddied. Eventually the garden was completely ruined. The garden became a place of trouble and danger for all who entered.
The king graciously chose to recommission the gardeners to restore the garden to a state that would once again reflect his goodness and his love for the people. But each time a gardener went, the ruffians who had spoiled the garden would assault and harass them until they fled to the palace for shelter, never to be seen again.
This saddened the king, and he decided to leave the trampled garden as it was for a time – an eyesore in the center of the city. Many of the people were also sad about this as they realized that they had lost the one place in the city that had been a place of peace and calm amidst the commotion of their lives.
Time passed and weeds overtook the landscape that had once been the king’s gift to the people. Occasionally people attempted to repair the garden, but their seeds were no comparison to the king’s, and they never had enough of them to make sufficient restorations. Anything they tried left them unsatisfied. So there they were, with no garden in their city of cold, stone walls and dusty roads, and only a sad silence from the king’s palace.
Then one day, without warning, the great stone palace doors swung open wide and a great wagon led by a majestic team of horses thundered out into the city streets. The city was aroused with interest. No one could remember someone coming out from the palace walls before. In the wagon, at the reigns of the team of horses was a man who was tall and handsome with a sense of purpose in his eyes. The people gazed in amazement as the man passed them on the street. Their eyes were wide with wonder, not only because it was a man from the palace, but because of what he was wearing. He was wearing coarse, brown cover-alls that were common among the workers and the builders of the city, but which contrasted sharply with the majesty of the palace from which this man came.
The wagon rolled to the center of what was once the flourishing garden of the king, but which had become overgrown with weeds and thorns and brambles. The man stepped out of the wagon and immediately set to work. He worked day after day, through draining heat and driving rains. The wagon was his bed and the garden was his mission. All the while, the people watched from a distance, unsure of how to help and in awe of the man who had come from the royal palace to repair their wrong.
After many days, the man had finished weeding the garden area, and he then went to work planting his palace seeds throughout the garden until all the soil had been properly tilled and all the seeds had been carefully sown. And still, the people stood back in awe, watching this mysterious man as he toiled on alone.
As the man completed his sowing late one evening, he went back to his wagon intending to spend one last night in the garden. But that very night, danger was lurking. Scoundrels who had felt the garden was their own to use as they liked, and who had felt excluded from the garden ever since this man had come, planned to attack the man before he could plant even one more seed.
As the man reclined in his wagon in the shadows of the evening light, he seemed to be surveying the work he had accomplished in the garden and appreciating what he knew would one day bloom for all to enjoy. Then suddenly, a group of angry men appeared before him at the foot of the wagon. He knew why they had come, as he had seen the former gardeners who had fled to the palace in days gone by. But he knew that even these men were people whom the king loved and whom the king wanted to enjoy his garden, so he offered no resistance when they descended upon him. The beating that they gave him seemed harsher than what any previous gardener had received, and before they stopped, the man had breathed his last. The men then left him in the wagon and with a slap sent the horses running through the night back to the palace gates. The gates opened and a hooded figure came and quietly led the horses and the wagon inside. When they had passed through the gates, the great stone doors swung closed with a deep, thunderous boom that echoed throughout the city.
When daylight came, people came to the garden to once again watch the man in his caring tasks. It was a shock to see that he and his wagon were gone, and before the sun was above the roofs of the furthest houses, the news had spread that the man from the palace had been killed.
There were some who were glad to see him gone, as they had never felt at ease with this mysterious man from a royal palace working the soil. He had been an unwelcome distraction from their predictable lives. There were others who were deeply saddened at the thought that he was gone, let alone murdered. They had hoped to one day meet him – perhaps to even be able to enjoy the garden he was planting together with him. And now he was gone forever, leaving nothing but the tilled, black soil to show that he had once been among them. But the passing of this man was felt by more than just those who had appreciated his presence among them. The entire city seemed subdued, and for several days the garden was left untouched and unnoticed, even by those who had wanted it for their own.
Then one clear, sunny morning, as the city mechanically began its day and people began to take their places in their shops and stalls, the palace doors swung open wide to the blast of trumpets! As those nearby turned in astonishment, out galloped a beautiful white horse ridden by the mysterious man himself, this time dressed in flowing royal robes of brilliant red and white! He was the son of the king. He galloped up and down the streets of the city, his red cape streaming behind him, shouting, “Come my friends! Come to the garden with me!”
The life-giving power of the king had been no fable, and the prince had been miraculously restored to life. He rode through the city inviting all to come to the garden he had planted. And when people arrived at the garden, they were shocked to see what had grown in the few days since the prince had gone. All the seeds that the prince had sown had already grown into a lush and beautiful garden that was far more magnificent than the previous one had been, with many more flowers and hedges and paths and grassy beds. Even the colours were brighter and the scents more brilliant.
The prince invited all to enter and enjoy the garden with him. The people were truly amazed at the beauty of the new garden, but even more so at the thought of enjoying it with this wonderful prince who had laboured so sacrificially in a garden that they did not deserve. Ever since that glorious day, the people have deeply treasured their times in the garden with the king’s son, and the garden itself has flourished and spread throughout the city to touch every portion of the king’s dominion.
© 2003 by Ken Peters