A man who possessed all the world can offer went to church one Sunday and discovered he really had nothing at all. There were three cars in his garage, but he could only ride in one at a time. The finest delicacies found their way to his table, but only his guests enjoyed them. His appetite long satiated, the hunger which now consumed him was a craving beyond three meals a day. The cashmere coat did nothing to warm him because a chill had settled on his spirit. And so he left everything he had and went on a journey.
A man who had never ceased to be a boy went to church one Sunday and wanted, fiercely, to grow up. Like a drowning man, he saw in a flash the wasted years and minutest disappointments borne only in the half light of intoxication. So he cast aside his bottle and went on a journey.
A man who wore a constant sneer went to church one Sunday, and for the first time in his life wanted to believe in something. So with the corners of his mouth turned up, he stepped into the light of day and also went on a journey.
They travelled long and far, not knowing what they sought, and at a particular fork in the road it happened that they all came together. Each welcomed the presence of the other, and they continued on as one. They wandered in a weariness, and as night-time fell and finding themselves no closer to their goal, the three sat down to rest.
Whether real or a dream, I do not know, but each became aware of a figure in the shadow, and then it, or he, spoke, “You have travelled on familiar ground—three others came this way, many years ago. You bear a close resemblance.”
“Who were they?” said the first man.
“How many years ago?” said the second.
“Why did they come?” said the third.
“The world remembers them as the three wise men, and they came this way nineteen hundred and sixty years ago, following a star.”
“I can hardly be called wise,” said the rich man in lowered tones. “I had everything a man can wish for, but not the wisdom to enjoy it. I left it all behind.”
“A wise man can stand alone,” said the drunk. “I used a liquid crutch.”
“If I was once wise, it was only because I knew enough not to believe in anything. Now I am confused and filled with wonder at many things. If I was once wise, I am no longer,” said the cynic.
“True wisdom is often cloaked,” said the figure. “You,” he said to the first, “in possessing all, had a deep obligation to your fellow man. Through not understanding what you were to do next, you stripped yourself in order to find yourself. A man less wise would bask alone in the glory of possessing, only to find he must leave the world as he came to it, with nothing, having given nothing.”
“And as for you,” he said to the second, “though you think of yourself as a coward, you found the courage to cast aside your crutch, as you call it. This was a beginning—weakness acknowledged can become strength.”
“In the past,” he said, turning to the third, “you believed in only that which you could see or touch, and what you saw was not always pretty, and what you touched turned to ashes. All three of you have come this way in search of a star, but it is for you to find it.”
Glancing up at the heavens they at first could see nothing. But as they gazed each saw, according to the depth of his desire to do so, a tiny fleck of silver in the night sky.
“Are you able to see anything,” said the figure.
All admitted to having seen something. “If it is a star, why is it so dim?” asked one.
“It was not always so,” said the figure. “The other three saw it clear and bright from the very beginning, because it was a beginning. It has since been tarnished with centuries of injustice—people against people. They failed to see that each year at Christmas, with the birth of Christ, a rebirth is offered to all who will but seek it. If the star is exceedingly dim, be thankful that it is even barely perceptible, for once it disappears from the sky, it will not be seen again.”
“But we are only three. What can we do?”
“All of the evil, down through the years, has been born in insignificance. An isolated event, the craving for power on the part of one man has brought nations to war. Man, instead of humbling himself before God, has envied Him and sought dominion over his fellows. His greed has engendered an appetite impossible to fill. Three of you can do much to turn the tide, while there is yet time.”
“We are a sorry lot—God must weep at our creation. I will go back and give all that I have to the poor,” said the rich man.
“It would soon be done and finished, and you would have yourself left over. Rather, use your position to better conditions for those beneath you—a man should receive all that he earns, but must earn what he receives. A beggar soon learns to despise his benefactor. Go back now, and seek to find the true meaning of the word, giving, and your life will no longer be empty.”
“I will never touch another drop,” said the man who was known as a drunk, in a moment of high elation. I will tell everybody of this thing that has happened to me.”
“Softly, softly,” said the figure, “lest too much talk creates a thirst. Rather, live each day at a time, turning to many tasks, and those who once laughed and called you “fool” will marvel at your strength. Go now, and through quiet example prepare a path for others.”
“Tell me, now, how I can help,” said the cynic, who was beginning to believe in himself.
“You, perhaps, can do most of all. Whereas, you once believed in nothing, you are now free to break through the barriers that separate men from good will – prejudice which divides and conquers, based on religion, or nationality, or the color of a skin. Let integrity be a part of the smallest venture entered into, and beware of the harmless little joke that belittles another’s dignity. Pray, too, that the soul of man will not be judged by color.”
The man of wealth awoke in silken sheets, while the one who as labelled a drunk became cold sober in a place where he had gone to forget. The cynic, henceforward, saw everything as he wished it to be, and did all that he could to make it that way.