Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a young maiden with her grandparents. Their home was of modest size and she, being the only child, had the freedom to go into any room except one. This room was constantly locked. The only key, to her knowledge, was in the possession of her grandmother. The young maiden tried over and over again to find out what was in this forbidden room. Her grandmother would say, “Hush child, you are not old enough to understand.”

One night, her curiosity got the best of her. As she pretended to be asleep, she watched her grandmother take the lamp and unlock the door to the secret room. As her grandmother closed the door behind her and locked it again, the young maiden snuck up to the key hole, hoping to see what was going on in the room. She could hear her grandmother humming, but could see absolutely nothing. Her grandmother called through the closed door, “Child! Stop your nosiness! Go to bed!”

Totally frustrated, the young maiden sulked back to bed. As she did so, she decided to work on papa to find out about the secret room. As papa tended to the garden, the young maiden knelt down and began to pluck weeds from between the vegetables. Papa declared, “Thanks for your help! But, my dear, you will not find out ANYTHING from me about the room! This is your grandmother’s business, not mine!” Surrendering to reality, the young maiden decided that perhaps she might not be old enough to understand.

Several years passed. On the morning of her tenth birthday, at her place at the kitchen table was a simple box tied with a bright blue hemp bow. As she sat down, her grandmother pointed to the box and said, “Happy Birthday, dear!” With great enthusiasm, she ripped open the box to find the key to the room!

Forgetting breakfast, she approached the door with much trepidation. With a shaking hand, she put the key into the lock and turned. The door to the room opened effortlessly. Her grandmother followed her, carrying a lantern.

Sheepishly, the young maiden stood in the middle of room, allowing her eyes to process the dimly lit image of what was in front of her. Around its perimeter was shelving. On each of the shelves were large wicker baskets. Within each wicker basket were large balls of hemp, each basket containing another color. As she looked around, she thought, “Gosh, the room has all the colors of the world!” In the middle of the room was a large empty loom and a smaller one with the beginnings of a weaving. Not fully understanding what she saw, the young maiden turned to her grandmother and asked, “Can you please explain all of this?”

The grandmother pulled up a wooden stool and motioned for the girl to sit. Pulling up a chair, and hanging the lantern in its place, she began, “My dear. The womenfolk of our family are weavers for the king. At the age of ten, we all received our first lesson on how to use the loom. The loom at the center of the room was mine. The smaller one was your mother’s. Her weaving remains on it from the time of her death when you were born. Beginning today, before you go to bed, you are to weave three rows of the color of the day. How you pick the color is to open yourself to His Majesty. He will tell you the color that you should use.” The girl asked, “Grandmother, how will I know when the weaving is complete?” She answered, “His Majesty will tell you. Now, let us begin.”

From that day on, the girl wove the color of the day. As time went on, she wove the colors of grief at the death of her grandparents, the joys of new found love and marriage, the worries of motherhood, the whispers of war and famine – the thrills and the agony of every nuance of life. With time, she turned into a wise woman. She finally got a sense that her weaving was complete. Severing the last thread, she prepared to journey to the palace to present her life’s work to the king.

Taking a container of water, some bread and cheese and her walking stick, she packed up her weaving and began her trip. In the middle of the long trek, she found herself in the midst of a dense forest. The foliage was so think that sunlight only touched the ground in sporadic sections.  She shivered as she walked.

In the darkest section of the forest, she came across a beggar woman with a tiny baby. The woman reached out and pleaded, “Do you have any food to share?” She sat down on a rock and shared what little she had.

She watched as the beggar woman and baby shivered in their threadbare clothing. She looked at her weaving. “Should I?” she asked herself. Reaching into the bag, she gave her beautiful weaving, her life’s work, to this mother and child.

Having done so, she continued on to her appointment with the king. Leaning heavily on her walking stick, she labored to the palace. Upon arriving, she was escorted to court. As she walked down the center aisle, she marveled over the beautiful clothing of all those present. Kneeling at the feet of the king, she cried, “Your Majesty! I know that you have summoned me to present my life’s work to you. Regrettably, I have nothing to give you, except my heart filled with admiration and love. Please forgive me, for I have wasted my life.” Her sobs echoed throughout the hall.

The king rose and bent over the woman. Taking her hands, he helped her to her feet. He gently whispered, “Oh no. You have not wasted your life.” He motioned for someone to come into the room. It was the same beggar woman with the tiny baby. However, she was clad in a royal gown and a crown! The king, smiling, went on, “You have met my daughter and grandson? You have not wasted your life. You have learned to give it away! Now, go back and teach others how do the same.”

How have you given your life away?

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness