One Wish

There was once a man who did a good turn for an old beggar lady who turned out to be a fairy in disguise, and in return she granted him one wish.

“One wish and one wish only,” she said, “for yourself and no other, for all your life and no going back.” And then she disappeared.

The man, whom we will call Jobey, puzzled and thought about what he should wish for.

“Wealth and riches,” he said to himself, “and then I would never want for anything for the rest of my life. But wealth might make me greedy and riches make me heartless, so I would do no good in the world, nor do myself any good either.”

He thought of wishing for happiness. “But a dog or a child may be happy and not understand how or why they are happy, or feel the sorrows or hurts of others.”

He put off deciding what to wish for until one day he became very sick, with fever and pains all over his body. “I should wish for good health for the rest of my life,” he thought. “But what if I should live a long healthy life, but have no money or family? Then how unhappy I would be!” Instead he took his medicine and rested and ate as much good food as he could, until gradually he was well again and then he was glad he had not spent his wish on mere good health.

Days and months passed, and still he had not decided what to wish for. Finally he decided he would seek out the fairy and ask her advice. Every time he saw an old beggar woman, he gave her money or food, or clothes, hoping she was the fairy he was looking for, but although he made many poor, old women happier, he did not find the fairy.

“Maybe she has taken the form of a child, or an old man, instead of an old woman,” Jobey said to himself, so he began helping every beggar he saw, no matter what their age, whether they were man, woman or child, but still he did not find the fairy.

“Could it be that she is sick, in a hospital or a shelter of some kind?” he asked himself. So he began visiting hospitals and shelters, keeping company with the sick and the dying, the poor and the lonely. It made him very happy to be able to bring some comfort to others, and he could think of no better way to spend his money. But nowhere did he find the fairy, and still he could not decide how to use his wish.

Finally he reached the end of his life. In his last days, he told his story to the nurse who was looking after him. “One wish,” he said. “I have one wish, and I don’t want to die without having made use of it. If I could, I would return the wish to the fairy, so that she could give it to another who would use it better than I have.”

The nurse sat down beside him, and she said, “What is it that you want more than anything?”

Jobey, who had seen every kind of misery the world had to offer, thought deeply, and said, “I suppose what I most truly want is love. Not to be loved, but to be full of love to overflowing, so that I can give it away to others.”

The nurse smiled and her whole face changed. Jobey recognised her as the fairy who had given him his wish, so long ago. “Look around you,” she said, and the faces of all the children and people he had helped appeared, crowds upon crowds of them, and every one of their faces was full of love.

Jobey was overwhelmed, and tears ran down his face. “How can this be?” he cried.

“Every act of kindness,” the fairy said, “has made the seeds of love grow in your own heart, and this you have given away, over and over. There is no need to wish for love but only to allow it to grow.”

She sat with him and held his hand in this company of shining faces until he closed his eyes and passed from this life into a far better place.

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