(Author’s note: Please scroll to the end for the video version!)
Copyright © 2005, 2010, and 2013 by Billie S. Noakes
All Rights Reserved
Long dreams ago, and more years than anyone can count, when Creator made the earth, the universe was dark and silent, and the earth held back her beauty and her bounty.
So Creator made the sun, and the sun sent his warmth and light to hug the earth and bring forth her abundance.
Creator gazed upon the earth’s deep blue oceans, lush green forests, golden prairies and dark, mighty mountains, and Creator’s heart was filled with joy. But as you know, joy is never complete until it is shared, and there was no one to share with Creator in the marvels of this wonderful work.
So Creator made the People, and placed the People to live upon the earth. And it wasn’t long before the People, like Creator before them, celebrated the wonders of the earth, and Creator’s joy and their own was complete.
But People are people, after all, and prone to find fault, and they eventually came to realize there was one small detail that kept the earth from being absolutely perfect in every way.
So they traveled to the place where they could speak with Creator in all reverence, and they said:
“Creator, we love the earth you have made for our home. The plains feed us abundantly, the vast waters cool and refresh us, and the forests and mountains entice us always to explore their mysteries.
“The warm sunshine that lights all our activities is a blessing, as well, Creator. But the sunlight tickles our eyelids open when we need to rest, making it hard to sleep.
“Creator, is there not something to be done to help us with this one small problem?”
Creator heard the People, and thought long and carefully, and then said, “Yes.”
And Creator set the earth to spin slowly, so that at every minute of every day, part of the earth was bathed in sunlight, and part was cloaked in darkness.
“Now,” said Creator, “you have both Day and Night.”
Oh, how the People rejoiced! They returned to their villages, and their days were spent working and playing, while their nights were spent in restful sleep, with no sunlight to disturb them.
But People are people, after all, and it wasn’t very long before they noticed there was another small detail that kept the earth from being absolutely perfect in every way.
They knew they must make another journey to seek Creator’s help, so back they went to the place where they could speak to Creator in all reverence.
“The night is so dark!” they told Creator. “We have so much to do that we often work well into the night. Without the sun’s light to guide us home, we might fall into a pit, or walk into a tree, or come to some other great harm. Creator, is there not some way to solve this one very small problem?”
Creator heard the People, and thought long and carefully, and then said, “Yes.”
And Creator made the moon, and placed the moon high in the nighttime sky to gently reflect the light of the sun onto the night side of the earth.
The moon was just what the People had hoped for! Its light was not so bright as to tickle their eyelids open when they tried to sleep, nor so dim that they worried about coming to harm in the darkness. And for a while, the People were most happy.
But People are people, after all, and they gradually became aware of one more detail that kept the earth from being absolutely perfect in every way. Once again, they made the journey to seek Creator’s help.
“Creator,” they said now, “the moonlight is just what we wanted, but every so often, the moon fails to shine in the nighttime sky. Without its light to guide us, we can still come to harm when we must walk in the darkness. Creator, can you not find some way to bring a little light to the sky when the moon is away?”
Creator again heard the People, and again thought long and carefully, and just when the people expected a new solution to remedy this latest problem, Creator said, “No.
“My People, you have the power to bring light to the darkness of the world, and you must find that power for yourselves.” And Creator would say nothing more on the subject.
The People were stunned! Creator had never denied them before. How were they to bring light into the darkness? The People had no powers to match those of Creator. Creator told them the power was there, but what mystery must they penetrate to find it?
The People thought long and hard about the challenge Creator had set before them.
They looked at their cooking fires and watched as small embers drifted up from the flames. Perhaps, if they but built their fires large enough and hot enough, the embers would be lifted higher into the sky until they could burrow into the velvety darkness and be held there.
But when the People matched action to idea, their embers drifted up, higher and higher, and then winked out.
The People then remembered that when they carried torches to light their way at night, the wind sometimes carried the light from their torch fires a short distance ahead of them into the dark of the night. So they fashioned larger torches and carried them high up onto the windswept mountain tops, thinking the stronger winds there would carry their light farther than their embers could rise, and that the fire from their torches would travel forever across the heavens.
But the winds on the mountain tops were so strong that they blew the People’s torches right out, leaving the People to make their way blindly back down the rocky mountain slopes.
Some of the People built a catapult, and gathered old sticks and dried grasses and leaves and all manner of things that would burn, and they rolled them into a great ball and slathered the ball with animal fat. The People hoisted the sticky ball onto the catapult, set the ball aflame, and sent it hurtling into the night.
Up and up the flaming ball went, higher and higher … but then it fell back to the ground, where it burned itself out.
By now, the People were weary of their quest. They were sure that Creator was mistaken, that the People were powerless to light the world’s darkness.
Frustrated by Creator’s seeming indifference, the People returned home to their villages, resigned to accept the occasional nights of darkness. Perhaps in the comfortable familiarity of their homes, they would one day think of better solutions.
But the People had been away so long that when they reached their villages, they discovered that their homes had fallen into disrepair. Their fields had gone to weed. Their herds had returned to the wild.
The People felt overwhelmed. How could they begin to restore their villages with so much to do? Where should they begin such monumental tasks?
Ah, but People are people, after all, and quick to learn important lessons. And they learned that what one could not do alone, many could accomplish by working together.
And so it was that, one by one, each family’s home and fields and herds were brought aright, and with so much work to be done for so many, the People often toiled from dawn until dusk, and still they pushed on, laboring into the night, even on those nights when the moon failed to light the nighttime sky.
And that is when something wonderful happened!
As the People worked beyond the light of day, there appeared a small chip of light in the darkened sky for each man, each woman, and each child who worked to help his or her neighbors. Together, these small points of brilliance made just enough light to illuminate their tasks and see the People safely home when it was finally time to sleep.
And so it continued: when any one of the People helped another and performed an act of kindness or compassion, that act was matched by a sparkling gleam of light in the sky, bright and constant.
The People felt a need to acknowledge these small sparks of brilliance, and named them “Stars.”
Every night, after they finished their work, the People would gather together, look up at the sky, and share the story behind each new Star that now glistened above them.
The stories spread quickly from village to village, and eventually the realization came that the People had fulfilled Creator’s promise, and found within themselves the power to light the darkness. That realization was the cause of great celebration.
And that power is alive to this very day: one person lightening the darkness of another’s life, and each light multiplying the brightness of those around it.
So, my friends, whenever you wonder whether the kindness we show each other really matters, just look up at the nighttime sky, count the Stars, and know that it is just as Creator promised:
Each one of us does, indeed, carry the power to bring light into the world’s darkness.
Each one of us does, indeed, carry the spark of the Creator.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve recorded a version of this story for YouTube:
This story was also adapted for the Children at the Well interfaith program in March 2012 by youth teller Emily Hebert. Emily presented her adaptation as part of the Sunday Showcase at the Sharing The Fire Northeast Conference on March 18, 2012. As of July 2013, the story continues to be a regular part of the program, and Director Paula Weiss tells me it is always well-received!
STORY ON THE MOVE! Thomas Rickard, a teller in the UK, also asked for permission to share this story. Here’s his version, originally told as part of the Earth Hour observance in March 2013, and recorded the next night at his storytelling group: