“Why have we stopped?” asked the apprentice.
“We have a duty to fulfill,” replied the master craftsman. “The family who dwells inside this hut have a sick little girl and I have made her a gift. Please retrieve it from under your seat and accompany me.”
The apprentice did as instructed and followed the old man to the door. A woman whose face was worn with worry welcomed them into the hut where a small girl lay on a sweat-soaked mat. The young man could not take his eyes off of the sick child.
“Is she better?” asked the craftsman in a low tone.
“I am afraid she is not. Her fever is still very high and she seldom wakes to eat.”
Downcast, the old man grunted in a low sympathetic tone. He motioned for his apprentice to hand him the gift. “I have brought her this gift. It is not much, but I hope she is able to enjoy it very soon.”
As he handed it over, the distinctive rattle of coins could be heard. The mother accepted the gift with a gracious bow while a tear rolled over her wrinkled cheek. “Thank you, sir.”
“I pray healing over this house,” said the master craftsman as he guided his apprentice back outside.
They mounted the cart and with a slight prod, the ox pulled them in silence until the boy’s curiosity could restrain him no longer.
“You chose to use the walnut?”
“Yes. I sensed it was right for her and although I used a portion, much remains.”
“May I ask what was inside the box?”
“Of course. It was a hippopotamus I carved for the little girl as I wept and prayed over her.”
“And you gave them money although you have so little?”
“I have all that I need, my friend. These neighbors are in need of food and medicine to care for their daughter and it is our duty to help them.”
“They are kin to you?” asked the boy.
“They are not,” replied the master. “What is kin and what is neighbor? These words are not different, they are the same. The oak tree does not choose the soil in which it is planted nor does it have the luxury to choose the seeds which take root nearby. Yet it must share the rains that nourish and the sun that shines upon it regardless of whether its neighbor is an oak, ash, or maple. So too, we must cooperate with those around us no matter whether they share our name or not. It is our honor and privilege.”
“Yes, master,” said the boy as he pondered this notion.
As the shop came into view and the silent journey reached its end, the apprentice asked hopefully, “Will the little girl recover?”
“I do not know,” replied the master. “These are things outside our control and influence. I can only hope and pray that she does.”
As they unloaded the lumber into the shop, the weight of concern became more of a burden for the boy than the heavy wood. Though he tried to focus on his task, his mind continually fell back on the little girl laying on the mat until he could hold his tongue no longer.
“I wish there was more I could do for the girl,” he cried. “I don’t like feeling so…”
He paused, unable to describe his feeling and wondering if his outburst was welcome.
“How do you feel?” prodded the master gently.
“Helpless,” concluded the boy as the word finally entered him.
“Yes, we are helpless. And I do not like feeling that way, either. There are times when we are called to action and there are times when we can only sit beside and watch things occur. In those times, do not discount the power of hope and prayer. Hope has a way of setting into motion things that we are powerless to influence. And prayer is our way of influencing the one who has the power to move the immovable.”
The apprentice said nothing, but pondered these ideas as he finished his work. Never in his life had he been confronted with sickness such as the little girl’s nor had he experienced the hopeless feelings welling up within him. Though he tried to take his master’s advice, he simply felt a black cloud enveloping him that he could not dismiss. It grew deeper and darker as the day drew to a close.
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