Once upon a time long ago in a valley far away there lived a little girl. She was not a particularly pretty little girl nor was she any smarter than even the most average of the village children. She was careless about paying attention and remembering things so sometimes she appeared to be even more average than the average children of the village.
Consequently she had no skill for her mother to call upon when she needed help, no talent that her father could brag about to his co-workers and her personality left much to be desired as she was often bemused.
Mostly she went through life watching and listening and all around her people were doing the most marvelous things and the wonder of it was that the people did not even appear to know how marvelously wonderful the thing was that they were doing!
One day while walking she came upon a boy sitting on a rock playing a lovely flute. The music was beautiful and the little girl knew that the tune would stay with her for a long long time so she sat down in the grass and listened.
But the boy played listlessly with slumped shoulders and his fingers moved methodically up and down the ebony wood of the flute and the girl saw how it glowed in the sunlight making the music even more pleasant. She wished fervently that she could play the flute but for that moment she was content to listen to the boy.
And when the boy took the flute from his lips to lay it aside she clapped her hands and called to the boy and told him how wonderfully he played and her face shone with the pleasure of the music. So the boy sat straighter and brought the flute to his lips again and the music was even more beautiful so she sat in the grass and listened to the boy for awhile. And the boy smiled when he wasn’t playing and the sound from the flute became clearer and happier and she hummed the tunes all the way down the road.
And she was sorry that she couldn’t play the flute but very happy that the boy could.
And on the way she came to a low spot in the road where the village carts had passed by so many times and the weather had been so wet that the road was impassable and that only the most sturdy carts were able to detour way up around the knob of a nearby hill and back down to the road. And she knew this was why the letter carrier had not been able to bring the expected letter from her brother far away that her mother so eagerly waited for.
She remembered her mother’s anxious face and was happy to see the two men, with mud covered boots and work-rough hands, shoveling gravel into the ruts and covering the gravel with pitch. They didn’t seem to be happy doing this kind of work and the girl did not blame them because the gravel was heavy and the pitch stank and the men quarreled between themselves as to who would have to spread the pitch.
But they were doing a fine job and the part of the road repaired could hardly be told from the old undamaged part and she stopped and told them so. She also told them about her brother’s letters and how happy her mother would be to know that another would be coming once again. And one said to the other, as she passed on by, “I’ll take a turn with the pitch now, friend.” And he did.
She was sorry that she wasn’t strong enough to shovel the gravel and the pitch to hasten the time when her mother would get the longed for letter but she was glad the men were.
She passed a young woman as she went along who had the charge of two small children and an infant that rode high on her shoulder and was held there firmly by one of the young woman’s thin arms. The woman looked distracted and unhappy as if there were a thousand places she would rather be and in more entertaining company but she clutched the infant to her shoulder and allowed the two small children to cling to her worn skirt.
The girl said to her, “It must be very hard to watch out for all three of those children” and she said, “Yes, for if I don’t watch every minute the one will fall into the river or off the bridge and the other is always wandering away and the baby often chokes while eating.” And the girl thought, “How capable this young woman is. I am sure I would never have such patience as she shows. And how wise must the mother be to put her children into her care”.
And she told the young woman those things and the young woman stood taller and softened her face and she patted the sleeping infant and said, “Well yes, well, I do my best” and the girl thought her best was very good indeed and told her so. And the young woman smiled and smoothed one of the children’s hair and tucked the other child’s scarf in a little more snuggly.
And the just average girl who had no particular beauty, and who had no skill or talent, walked on and was glad that she knew so many people who did.