Once upon a time not so very long ago, in a place not so far away. In the middle of the season where the days are short, the sun is weak, and water drops from every leaf on every tree…there lived a woman who wanted so badly to understand about the pain of others, that she might understand pain in herself.
Since she was a little girl, when she saw her friends crying and being sad, she too felt a tightness in her chest, on the left side, right underneath her ribs. On occasion, when friends of hers got yelled at by their parents, or when they would fall to the hard pavement and skin their knees, the little girl would take a deep breath and wait for them to start crying. She would wait for the feeling in her chest, on the left side, underneath her ribs. And when they cried and the salty messengers of their hearts streamed down their faces, the little girl would go to them, intending to reach out and hold their hand and tell them that everything would be alright. Except that she could never quite do these things. It was too hard…too confusing. And then, the moment was gone, and along with it the urge to reach out.
As she grew older, parents yelling and skinned knees, were replaced by relationships that did not work out, and jobs interviewed for, but not procured. And when she would sit with her friends and listen to their stories, she would take a deep breath. At those moments, she would once again get the feeling in her chest, left side…ribs. She would feel herself wanting to reach out to hold their hands and tell them that everything would be alright. Except that she could never quite do it. Too hard…too confusing.
And so it went that life was full of many moments strung together. Many of them were joyful, many were sad. It was as if she wore a long necklace, composed of two colors of glass beads…pink beads on the same strand with the black beads.
One night, in that time of her life somewhere between the wisdom of old age and the pizzaz of twenty-something, the woman dreamt. Lying in her bed, in a sandwich of flannel sheets and down blankets, she had a dream about a fairy. Deep in her slumber, at that time of night when even train whistles are asleep, and the city is quiet, they met. It was a dream of color, not black and white. In the dream, the woman was walking down the middle a deserted street. It was raining. And the fairy looked like…well…it didn’t really look like a fairy. Cowboy boots, black wool tights, a pink skirt, and an old weathered wool sweater. Looking up, the woman saw the fairy coming towards her. Carrying a skateboard under her arm, she approached the woman. It was the delicate golden crown on the fairy’s head that was most reassuring.
The fairy stopped and looked at the woman. Underneath her crown were eyes of blue, both wise and mischievous. She did not hesitate more than a few moments before speaking to the woman.
“You have to reach out and gently take their hand in yours,” said the fairy. “Don’t hold their hand, unless you know ‘em, of course.” But if you know ‘em, and they know you, just hold their hand.” the fairy continued. And if you see that they are crying, reassure them that everything will be alright…someday.”
The fairy hesitated, then reached out to hold the woman’s hand. “Like this…” she said. “Now you try it.”
At this prompting, the woman reached out to take ahold of the fairy’s hand. “Everything will be alright, someday,” the woman haltingly rehearsed.
“Awesome,” said the fairy. “You’re making my job easy.” And with that, the fairy put her skateboard down on the rain-soaked middle of the night pavement, and started to roll away.
“Please wait!”, the woman protested. Then continued, “Do you have a wand or something that you could wave over me to give me a special power that I have always wanted?” “One day only…24 hour period…I have always wanted to know instantly, when I see someone, if they have pain in their heart. Right here,” she pointed to the fairy’s chest. “On the left side, underneath the ribs.”
The fairy nodded. “Yes. I can do that.” she said to the woman. The fairy took off her messenger bag and pulled out an old smooth willow stick with a few chicken feathers on top. “It’s my wand!” she confidently told the woman. The fairy passed it over the top of the woman’s heart with three fluid movements. “Okay, here’s the deal,” the fairy instructed. “Starting in the morning, whenever you see someone, whether you know them or not, you will have the special power of compassion to know if there is a pain in their heart.”
The fairy continued, “You will know this, because to your eyes only, you will be able to see that their heart is pink and pulsating, but also broken.” The fairy looked down at the pavement. And when she looked up, there was a tear in her blue eyes that the woman could see. The woman looked down at the left side of the fairy’s chest and saw a pink pulsing heart that had a small crack in it.
Somewhat self-consciously, the fairy looked at the woman and checked-in with her. “Can you see it? I want to make sure the power works before I skate away.”
And without saying anything, the woman reached out and gently took ahold of the fairy’s hand. She looked into the fairy’s eyes, and said, “Everything will be alright, someday.”
“You get it.” said the fairy. She put her skateboard down and begin to wheel away. She turned around momentarily, “Remember, only works for 24 hours, use it wisely. And thanks for letting me be your fairy.”
Jeffrey Post-Holmberg is a contributing writer for River Notes blog on Two Rivers Counseling website. When he is not busy silently and adoringly watching his wife, Sarah, on her journey through life…he is savoring the last bite of coffee ice cream at the end of a long day.