The Most Precious Thing

Here’s a story that has a lot of resonance for me lately.  My partner Liz Mangual and I have adapted it from a version by Jim May we found in More Ready to Tell Tales. I’m not sure about it’s original source.

The Precious Jewel

One day, a merchant packed his wares and set out on a two day journey to the capital city, hopeful to turn a good profit as was his custom and his luck.

At the end of the first day he arrived at an Inn, ate a good supper and retired to a comfortable bed.

That night he had a wonderful dream!  In the dream he met another merchant sitting beneath a golden cottonwood tree  who held in his hands  a rare and precious jewel of magnificent proportions.

He traded for the jewel securing terms that would assure him a handsome profit.

The next morning he continued his journey and to his delight found himself at the very spot foretold in his dream. There was the cottonwood tree, and beneath it sat a man.  But…not the man in his  dream.  Instead, there sat a  holy man dressed in a simple robe , a begging bowl at his feet.

“Last night I dreamed  I met a man right here, beneath this very tree, at this very hour, dressed exactly as you!” exclaimed the holy man. “Greetings and welcome!”

“I too had a dream, said the merchant. I dreamed that I’d come to this very spot, by this very tree,  at this very hour.  I too met a man… but not a holy man such as yourself. Instead, I met another merchant. I traded with him for a rare and precious jewel.”

Reaching into the folds of his robe the holy man pulled out a  dazzling jewel.  “Oh you must mean THIS,” replied the holy man.  “Do you wish to possess it?.”

“Yes, Yes, I would like nothing more, that is… if we can come to favorable terms.”

“Terms? Terms?”  said the Holy Man.  “I know nothing of terms.  But here, if you wish to have it, take it, it is yours, and be blessed on your journey.”

Hardly able to believe his good fortune, the merchant reached for the jewel, thanked his benefactor and walked on, as a man mesmerized,  anticipating the  great profit that soon would be his.

A week later, the path that led the merchant to the Capital City now led him back home.  He came to the golden cottonwood tree, and there he found the holy man sitting in contemplation.

“Greetings again traveler!  You have returned ….as in my dream.”   Did you profit  from the jewel as you had hoped and dreamed?”

Now, reaching into his own pocket, the merchant pulled out… the jewel.

“I have come to return this to you.  I have no need for it.  What I truly desire now is far more precious than this jewel!  Now, what I wish for is to learn from you what allowed you to give it away to me so freely.”

What is that most precious thing that you seek?


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