PEACE AT EMERALD POND
-Riley Spear (Dad)
Once upon a time, there was a small village that lay at the head of the of a river where they split in two named the Riverhead. To its back rose the Saw Jaw mountain range.
It was a quiet village and the citizens, for the most part, were friendly and kind to each other. They rarely had visitors because the rivers ran away from the village, and the climb over the mountains was always treacherous except for one month in the summer.
This month was designated the month for sharing, because travelers and traders, storytellers and entertainers would come from across the globe to visit the Riverhead Village. They brought with them their best clothes and trinkets, shared their best stories and performances, all for the opportunity to drink from the Emerald Pond that was believed to bring the village such peace.
New visitors always were amazed by the exchanges that happened because it was the children of the village that were in charge of who could partake from the pond. The travelers would try to engage the adults to see if they could discover the cause behind the bizarre method, but their answer was always the same, “the children of this village have always unlocked peace, we can’t change that.” So the travelers would continue to trade with and perform for the children.
The children always had for those fortunate enough to partake from the pond one rule, they could come and view the pond, but only the children could draw water from it. They could be observed the whole time, but when the foreigners were ready to drink, the children would request an audience alone with the stranger. Day in and day out through the month of sharing travelers would visit and the children would share with them the clear green water.
One day, a man who heard legends of the pond can with a new invention, a cart that could hold vast quantities of liquids. He shared it with the children and asked if he might fill it up with the peaceful jade water. The children declined the man’s request because only they could draw from the pond, and only they could administer the water. Attempting to persuade them otherwise, he promised that he would follow all procedures they required of him, and hopefully, he could bring more people to the village after they had partaken of the water from his cart. Again, they refused him, but they saw the value and merit the man had put into his invention and invited him to partake from the water himself.
Upon hearing the invitation the man formed a plan. He would watch the children draw from the water and he would follow what they did exactly. As night fell, he would sneak to the pond and draw the water for his cart so he could share it with others. Then they would understand why he wanted to share it with others.
As the moment came, and he watched them, committing every step, every tool, and every path they used to memory. As he sat with the children, waiting to partake of the water he studied the ceremony carefully, analyzing the smallest detail that he might perform it with exactness. After drinking the water, the children ran up to him and embraced him, thanked him for making the journey, and asked for him to return whenever he likes because now he was a member of the Riverhead Village and he would always have a home there.
As night came, the man awoke and snuck to the pond that was completely unguarded. He drew water from it until his entire cart was full. He quickly left the village, convincing himself that it was the excitement of sharing the water with others that hastened his departure.
He stopped in at the first village that he came to and tapped the cart for the first cool draft of water from the legendary Emerald Pond. He informed the villagers of the opportunity to partake of the water. Many came and he was quickly overwhelmed and quickly the ceremony of sharing the water was taught to another adult of the village, and another, and another. The water was shared with anyone who was able to present something they deemed worthy of it.
Soon members of the village began to argue with each other about the methods of sharing the water and if it was truly the exact same as that of the Riverhead Village. The adults that had learned it from the man started asking questions on what was really worthy of the water and if the cost should be more. Fights and quarrels quickly came as people from other villages visited the man.
Some of the visitors were quickly thrown out, but not to be deterred by the other adults of the village, they would return more stubborn than before. The quarrels quickly became battles between groups and the battles soon turned to war.
The man, seeing what chaos the water caused broke open the cask and let the water freely flow onto the ground, ridding the combatants of the prize for which the war was fought. Rather than end the war, this incited the groups to even greater anger and hate. They cast him out in the late autumn.
The man had nowhere to turn to but the Riverhead Village, because he remembered them saying he was always welcome to return. Repenting in his heart for stealing the water, he resolved to make amends for his actions and plead for the forgiveness of the village.
The passageway to the village was completely blocked, leaving the man to climb the saw jaw range to hope for entry into the village.After a week trekking through the snow and bitter cold, the man finally found the village and stumbled upon the steps of the ceremony house.
The children were the first to see the man and immediately brought him their favorite blankets to help warm him. Others brought him their trinkets and toys they had traded for months earlier to help comfort the man. They brought him inside where their adults had prepared a fire and a warm meal. The man began to weep at the immediate kindness shown to him and begged for the forgiveness of the children.
Instantly he was swarmed by children holding him, crying with him, as he choked out his apology. The room was full of tears as an elderly man asked for the meal and the warm blankets brought into a private room where he could speak with the guilt-stricken man.
A new fire was lit and the meal was brought into the room so the man could eat as the elder spoke. “My name is Terrin, and I believe it is time you knew the secret of the peace we share with others.” The path worn man looked up, hopeful that he could figure out what he had done wrong. “The children have brought you their most valued toys to help comfort you, and have the brought you comfort?” The man looked at a small doll that he had unwittingly held. It felt hundreds of times heavier in his hand now, knowing that a small girl had given it to him so he could be comforted.
“Yes… And no….” The man confessed. The stranger felt the blankets on his back and held the doll in his hands. It was a nice doll, but it wasn’t a great doll, definitely not a doll worth peace. He removed the blanket from his back and noticed that it was thin, very thin, and that the materials were mediocre at best. He looked at every item around him and noticed a huge variation in the quality and craftsmanship of each item. Some belonged in a palace while others couldn’t be expected to be found in the most desperate hovels. Terrin watched the man study the items, noting the differences between them. Finally, Terrin broke the silence.
“Do you believe me when I say that the children have brought you their best toys?”
“Absolutely.” The man stated. The earnest children had been the ones to rush to his rescue. They had notified the adults; they had held him and cried with him as he laid his crime before them. He felt the love that could only come from a sincere heart, and these small hearts were absolutely sincere.
“The peace that others receive here is not because they drink of our waters, but it is because they also bring the best they have to offer. Many take a year to create something they hope to be worthy of the water so that they can trade for it, but many miss the fact that in so doing, they become better themselves. As they refine their work, they refine their character, and they then come to present that to us, but not to us adults; to the children.”
The doll the man held now took a new light. This doll wasn’t of great value because of the material, but because of whoever made it.
“You need to understand, my friend, that the children of this village don’t have very much. The weather is harsh, leaving very little land to help us farm. The village is too high for many large animals, so we are kept to small creatures that make meat a rare treat. All we have is a pond that holds green water. But peace doesn’t come from that pond. It comes from the individual. Think back to when you presented your cart to the children. Did they want the item?”
“No,” the man answered.
“But they let you drink from the water, didn’t they?”
“Yes.” More questions now flooded the man. They didn’t want the item, they didn’t care for the item, but they let him drink from the Emerald Pond.
“Why did they let me drink from the pond if they didn’t want my cart?” the man asked, confused and concerned.
“Because you wanted them to have it. Through your whole life, what have you made that has surpassed your cart?”
“So you presented them with your best, is that right?”
“Yeah, I did, I really did.”
“That is all that matters. That is why the children are the judges. We’ve seen items just like your cart before, some much better than yours. Because I’ve seen this, I’d judge you by your item, not by who you are. The children can appreciate anything as long as the person presenting it to them is genuine and sincere enough. Then they get to do something very special to them. They get to share their greatest treasure with others. That water isn’t special, it’s the fact that others believe it is special makes the children so happy to share it.”
“The visitors are at peace because what they have spent the last year on has been accepted by others, so in effect, they have been accepted. The children are at peace because they get to know and share their most prized possession with others. Peace can’t be taken, as you attempted to do, it can only come with the act of giving.” Tears streamed down the younger man’s face.
“But I wanted to give it away.” He protested.
“When you took the water, when you left the village, were you at peace?”
“When you were giving it away, did you charge people for it?”
“I had them bring items to trade.”
“But did they bring their best?”
“No. They didn’t, they only had to bring what was ‘good enough.’ Peace can never be purchased so cheaply. It takes something that you pour yourself into, your heart, your soul, and then to have that something accepted, means that you are accepted. When we find something that is ‘good enough’ it is not our own, and whether or not someone else likes it, that doesn’t mean that we are accepted if the gift is accepted.” Terrin walked over to the younger man and sat down with him.
“I’m also a stranger to this village. I came here when I was only 7 years old to see and partake of the legendary Emerald Pond.” Terrin’s eyes drifted to the wall, seeing something in the distance visible only to him.
“My family was part of an acrobatics act. We were very excited to perform for the children. When we arrived, the children swarmed me first, excited to meet me because travelers were rarely as young as I was at that time. Before we could even perform, I was friends with many of them.”
“They loved our show and instantly invited us to partake of the sacred waters. It was requested that I first partake of the water. They had drawn only enough for one person, and I looked to my parents, curious if it was OK that I partake first. They smiled and nudged me to the ceremony room, just outside those doors.” Terrin nodded to the doors that led to the cold mountains outside.
“I went in by myself and the children excitedly gave me the water. Never had there been so many children at one of the ceremonies. I was nervous as the brought me the cup, I spilled some on the floor, but they didn’t care. After I drank from it, they again surrounded me with hugs and caring words. Complimenting my performance and letting me know that I would always have friends in the village. Every child knew my name, and I was special to them.”
“After they embraced me, they asked something I couldn’t imagine. They asked if I would like to draw from the pond and if I would like to give it to my parents. I nervously declined, knowing how special the water was I didn’t want to mess it up.
“A young girl, almost five, hugged me and told me she had spilled the water many times, and to not worry about it. What mattered was that I would be able to give something special to my parents. Those that taught me everything I knew, that shared with me everything they had. I could finally give something to them that they never had before.” Tears welled in Terrin’s eyes. The young man didn’t know why, but he took the blanket off of his own shoulders and gave it to Terrin. Terrin accepted the blanket, thanking him. The man sat back down to hear the rest of the story.
“I walked to the Emerald Pond and drew carefully from the water. I came back to the room before my parents had been invited in. I set down the pail full of water and sat beside it waiting for my parents to join me. When the doors swung open, my parents looked around, almost worried, as if something had happened to me. But then they saw me by the bucket and knew that I would be the one to give them the water.
Tears ran down their face as I brought both of them the cups, and I got to share that moment with them. Then the children ran to us, with hugs and laughter. We were there, we were part of something more than just our performance. We were part of that peace.” The young man was warm now, and the food had become irrelevant, the toys had been carefully set aside, and he sat there, openly weeping at the thought of such peace. He remembered the peace he felt when the children likewise hugged him and told him he was a part of their village.
“The children asked us to stay with them a little longer, mostly so they could play with me, but they invited my parents to get to know the adults in the village as well. It was an offer we couldn’t decline. We traveled so often, we had nothing more than our small wagon to call home. We set up camp just on the outskirts of the village, close enough so the village could see us and we could see them.
“Every morning I would rush to meet the other children and every evening they would walk back to my wagon with me. I frequently brought back something that a child had given me. And I helped show them all of the acrobatics I could.
“We gave each other everything we had, and there was always enough for ourselves. We didn’t worry about what we wanted because we worried about what could benefit another. But it was an early winter, and we missed our chance to leave the village. I told you earlier that food is hard to get in this village, and with a short harvest season, hunger soon became commonplace.
“Acrobatic lessons stopped, and I came home with less and less food every day. We waited out the winter, eating anything we could get our hands on, including the very wagon’s wood we were using for shelter.
“The thing is, we knew the whole village was suffering because everyone was still sharing everything they had. It was impossible to accept the food from someone without knowing they would go hungry in return, but you accepted it anyway because they wanted you to have the best they could offer.
“One day, a man came to our wagon with a small bag. It only had a loaf of bread and some almost rotten vegetables in it. He apologized, saying he didn’t have anything else to share with us, and he wished he had more to give us. We gratefully accepted the gift and silenced his apologies because it was the most food we had in two weeks. He hugged us and walked back to his house. We naively thought that he gave us everything he could spare, but he gave us everything he had! He passed away a week later because his last meal filled our bellies. We barely survived that winter, and without that man, I’m positive we wouldn’t have.
“I thought for a long time I was a bad person because it didn’t bother me that he passed from giving us food, but then I realized it. He gave us his best, and so he was at peace. He knew he would pass but also knew that what he had could help others. He gave us more than we could’ve asked for.
“So ask yourself, you brought your cart to fill up with water so you could give that magic water to others so that they could feel peace, but we know from the war raging between the villages that the water wasn’t the answer. This time, you’ve brought an empty heart ready to fill with peace, just like this village has, and now you can truly share it.”
Terrin turned to the man, gave him a hug, stood up and left the room. He closed the door behind him letting the man ponder on his thoughts and the stories he had just heard. ‘What I would give to have that kind of peace’ the man thought. Then again, ‘What I would give to have that PEACE.’ rang in his head, but it sounded wrong. He thought about it again and again and again, until finally, it made sense to him. ‘What I would GIVE to have that peace…’
Jax and Lily,
I wrote this a while ago when I was going through a very difficult time. It has helped me as I’ve referred back to it and I hope it helps you. I love you both so much.