Once upon a time a long time ago in a far away place, there lived a community of cobblers and wool spinners and tin smiths and mead makers and poets. The folks toiled and played and studied books throughout the week. And on the first day of the week, they would come together in one large home to … well … to sing and to dance and to tell stories of their lives. The simply called themselves The Gathering.
And how rich their stories … stories of romance, stories of heartache and sickness, stories of loneliness being balmed by the presence of a friend, stories of an infant taking her first wobbly steps.
And somehow in being together, the stories of their lives would be braided together with the Great Story of the Sent One who had walked the dusty trails of the earth, oh, such a long time ago. The Sent One had touched the earth and its people with such tenderness, such healing and, yes, in times when injustice arose, the Sent One would respond with pained disbelief and transforming anger.
It was alleged that even after his death, the Sent One would sometimes reappear in one form or another, in a closed room among fearful folk, or on a lakeside beach among some fisher folk.
And so, a long time later, the folks of the Gathering would wonder: Does the Sent One still appear? Or some even wondered: Could the Sent One be right here among us? Even today? Of course, they rarely uttered these questions aloud, for sometimes the most sacred questions are best nurtured in the soil of silence and uncertainty. But still they wondered.
One day the people of The Gathering came together to restore an old house in their village. The roof of thisonceeleganthousedesperatelyneededre-thatching.Thewallsneededrechinking. Thefloors needed boards replaced. And The Gathering said, “Let us take this old house and transform it into a House of Hope.”
So on that appointed day, they came together. There were the buxom men and the ruddy-faced women. Even the old people came, the ones who were slightly stooped of frame but stalwart in spirit. And the children, oh, the children of The Gathering. There was year-old Azil, in her red rubber shoes whose eyes sparkled like the spring morning sun. And three year old Eloc whose curiosity about bugs and dirt and growing sugar peas gladdened the hearts of all in The Gathering.
Before folks started their various tasks on the House of Hope, the One with the Crooked Smile gathered together dried sticks and wood shavings and placed them into an earthen oven in the courtyard. No one was quite sure where the One with the Crooked Smile lived, or all of life’s tribulations that had shaped hercompassionateheart. Butwhenshestruckamatchandignitedthosesticks,ahushofwonderand amazement flooded the folks gathered around. And though no one said anything, they felt the question stirring within: Could it be? Could She be the One right here among us?Andthenthepeopleworked. Onemaidenofstrongarmhammerednewsidingontothehouse.Could she be?
Hardy folk climbed wooden ladders to paint the upper walls of the House of Hope. Could they be?
A young girl with glasses worked with an old man with glasses to measure and bend the precious copper plate to flash a dormer window. The old man marveled at the girl’s ability with measurement fractions. Could she be?
Finally, it was time for noon dinner. And the people of The Gathering circled around a makeshift table in the courtyard to eat their breads and drink their mead. And there, on the table before them, steamed the loaf, just taken from the earthen oven, waiting to be broken and shared with all.
And they wondered. And somehow they believed they knew. She was there. Among them. They felt it first when the One with the Crooked Smile had ignited the earthen oven.
Earl Martin, April 22, 2012