Never let another person's negativity into your heart.
| Once upon a time, not so long ago, there lived a young girl with her mother and father in the country. She was a carefree child, always singing and laughing. One day as she was singing and dancing for the trees in the forest, a witch heard her and said,
Oh, what is that tinkling sweet noise? It jangles on my nerves and makes me grumpy!
The witch really wasn't a witch at all, nor was she old or ugly, but the bitterness in her heart had made her feel so. She despised joy, grace and innocence. The witch determined in that instant to crush the little girl's joy. Isn't that the way of depraved humankind? It is sad but true that misery often loves company. Slowly the witch made her way towards the irritating sound in the forest. Finally, she came upon the girl.
Sunlight filtered down through the trees and shone upon the girl, who was dancing and singing. She had dark brown hair, shining brown eyes and her tanned skin shone as she danced. It seemed to the witch that the trees were dancing and enjoying the child for their branches and leaves swayed and quivered as if a cool, gentle breeze of early spring was wafting over them.
The witch was trying to be so careful and sneak up on the girl but she found herself feeling the strangest thing as she watched the joy of the child. She almost recognized the feeling but instead of making her feel happy, it only made her angry. Sometimes the remembrance of something wonderful can make a bitter woman even more bitter. As she crept up, she spied a ring of daisies, assaulting her with their cheerfulness basking in the sun. She plucked one viciously and her plan formulated in her devious, dark mind.
"Snap", sounded a twig as she made her way closer to the girl.
The girl was startled and twirled around and the trees stopped swaying, the birds ceased their beautiful song.
"Oh, hello!" said the girl, as she smiled at the witch. "I didn't know anyone else was here. Would you like to sing and dance with me? I would like that. Singing and dancing is so much more fun with friends." she said innocently.
Friends? I have no friends for I am ugly and cast aside, can't this imbecile girl see that? the familiar voice in the witch's head whispered to her.
"Oh, my dear, I wouldn't dream of interrupting you, your song was so sweet. I just had to come closer to see who was singing."
The witch simpered and smiled her crooked smile. It felt as if her face would crack from the effort as she had not smiled for many years, poor dear.
"Well, I am glad to see you ma'am. The trees and the birds are my friends and I like to make new friends. My name is Hope. What is your name?"
The girl smiled unaware of the wicked plan the witch had devised for her.
"My name is Dolores and certainly we can be friends." the witch lied.
"But, my sweet girl, I must ask, what are you doing here in the forest all by yourself. Are not your parents concerned for your absence?" the witch asked as she began to spin her web of darkness.
"Oh no! My mother and father know where I am. They know I am safe and how much I enjoy being in the forest. They love me and take good care of me." the girl said. "In fact, my mother says that I am so good and smart, she trusts that God and his angels will always protect me."
"Ah, I see", said the witch, she cocked her head to one side and pretended to think, "but perhaps not everyone believes in God or loves sweet girls as He does."
"Well, I just can't imagine that," the girl giggled, "God made everything and everyone and loves them. He made all things beautiful and wonderful. He would not let harm come to me or anyone."
The witch sensed the perfect moment and a tear came to her eye as she viciously pinched her own arm to bring huge, crocodile tears.
Beautiful? Everything and everyone? That is such a lie , the witch thought, "I am afraid that someone has been lying to you dearie. Everything and everyone are not beautiful. Have you not looked in the mirror lately? Some are beautiful and the rest of us, not so much. In fact, some of us are so not beautiful it seems as if we are invisible. I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you. I am not sure your parents love you as much as you think for if they did, they surely would never lie to such a dear girl as you!"
The girl gasped at the thought and the witch knew she had planted her evil seed.
"But, my parents do love me," she cried. "I know they do! They tell me so every day."
The witch shook her head sadly as the tears from her self-induced pain rolled down her cheeks.
"Life is very unfair my dear and the sooner you learn it, the better. I am so sorry I upset you but as a friend I felt I must tell you the truth."
Hope was devastated and didn't know what to think. No grownup had ever lied to her that she knew of, they had always been kind and loving.
The witch, sensing the moment was right, moved closer and took Hope by the hands and said,
"People are false and life is not beautiful. Look around you Hope and you will see what I say is true. Start with your mirror and you will be unable to deny it."
With that, the witch leaned in and kissed the lovely young girl on her cheeks, first one then the other. It was almost more than she could stand to do for she had touched no human for so many years and she resisted the urge to gag as she did it. Instead of gagging, the witch felt a surge of emotion as her lips touched the girl's soft cheeks. Her heart gave a leap and she almost passed out. Being so focused on the girl's sad face, she did not take the time to wonder about the unfamiliar feeling.
And so, just like the moment when the first parents tasted the apple, Hope's eyes were opened and her innocence was lost. Hope felt funny as she looked at her new friend. The usual feeling of warmth and happiness did not fill her as the woman's lips touched her cheek. It seemed as if the sky darkened a shade and the trees seemed to sag. Suddenly, Hope didn't feel safe and she backed away from the woman.
"I'm sorry ma'am but I must go home now." Hope had the feeling that she wanted to escape, get home where she felt secure among those who loved her.
Why do I feel so strange? she thought. Her countenance had lost its sparkle and Hope surely didn't feel well.
The witch could see that her plan had worked.
That'll fix this cheery bumpkin. Soon she will see that there is really nothing to be joyful about in life, the familiar voice whispered to the witch.
For a moment, the witch had a remembrance of another day, long ago, when she too had been filled with joy and someone had stolen it from her, in the blink of an eye, with a few carelessly chosen words. But the hardened heart of the witch pushed that memory out of her mind.
"Well, my dear, you certainly don't look well. You better run along home to your parents now. I wouldn't want you to get sick." The witch's voice cracked and oozed with false concern for Hope. "I must be getting on my way as well. The world isn't a safe place and an old woman alone can't be too careful."
With that, the witch turned and walked away. It seemed as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders as she walked, grousing and grumbling as she made her way back through the disapproving trees.
Hope found her way home and as she approached, she no longer saw the cheerful flowers, shrubs and trees that always welcomed her home with open arms. The closer she got the faster she walked until she was practically running when she entered the garden gate.
As Hope pushed through the door to her cottage, her mother who was in the kitchen, turned and smiled,
"Hello sweetie, did you have fun in the forest with your trees and friends?"
Hope stood stock still, looked at her mother's familiar smiling face and blurted out,
"No! I hate the forest and I never want to go back there again. I have no friends there." and ran to her bedroom slamming the door.
Hope's mother did not know what to make of this for Hope was always such a cheerful child. When she went to Hope's room, Hope was sobbing but there was no amount of consolation or hugs that would entice Hope to tell her mother what was wrong. This disturbed her mother but she felt sure that things would be set right. After all, things usually had a way of working themselves out. Hope's mother left her alone and Hope was left with her thoughts and fears as she tried to understand why she felt so awful and empty.
As time went on Hope lived with her parents and enjoyed her life as most children do. She went to school, she played, she made friends but the witch's words to her never really left her. They had been planted and grown and even though Hope forgot the events of that horrible day, the day her innocence was stolen, the ugly weeds of self-doubt and mistrust grew and grew, like the beanstalk that Jack grew to get to that mean old giant.
Weeds are so awful, they grow and twist and turn with their roots. They choke out the good things we delight in seeing and they often have sharp thorns and burrs that poke our bare feet, our hands and especially with this kind of weed, our hearts, making us ache and bleed. In the same way, the witch's weeds caused Hope pain.
Often when she was out with her mother, a stranger would come up and say,
"Oh, what a lovely child you have!"
Hope's mother always smiled and thanked the person but Hope often thought,
Lovely? No way, how can you think I am lovely? I am not. I am ugly and you are just trying to be nice. I don't believe you.
See how poisonous our thoughts can be. They make us sick. But no one knew that Hope had these thoughts for she became very good at hiding how she really felt. She had decided that no one would ever hurt her again with their words and if they did hurt her, she would never show it.
Hope grew into a lovely, smart young woman. On the outside she looked like the picture of self-assured pleasantness. Everyone wanted to be her friend. This was no accident for Hope had made sure that she always presented herself in such a way that this would be so. The deep sorrow and emptiness she felt on the day the witch snatched her hope still lived and burned quite fiercely inside of her. She had lived her young life telling herself that her parents loved her and that others liked her, all the while the witch's voice whispered People are false and life is not beautiful. Look around you Hope and you will see what I say is true. Start with your mirror and you will be unable to deny it. Hope wanted to believe that people loved her, that she could trust them but that voice just kept nagging at her.
The only person Hope believed truly loved her was God. He had shown her His love and it was His voice that warred inside her mind when the witch's cackle popped up. She stayed as close to Him as possible, to protect herself but in that way she built a strong castle around her heart. She would think,
Well, I don't know if they really like me but God loves me and that is all I need. It is all I should need, right?
She would convince herself of this and so led a very lonely existence. So sad, because like all of God's children Hope had much to offer others if she could only learn to trust and share.
No, she would tell herself. If you trust people, they will always let you down and hurt you.
She was convinced of this. But, of course, the poor dear was proven right for it is a universal truth that if you are looking for something ugly you will likely find what you are looking for, even if it isn't really there.
But, my friends, a miraculous thing happened one day. On this special day, Hope met a young man and her reaction to him was so immediate, so like nothing she had ever experienced before, that she was unable to stop and think, to listen to that nasty voice that so often sought to steal her joy. She fell in love in that instant. She was overtaken by such emotions of goodness and light that for a brief moment in time she believed that he loved her too. She did not question it, she did not even hear the voice, so pure was the truth of his love.
Wouldn't it have been nice if that mean old witch had finally been banished and Hope had been released from those thoughts of being unloveable? That would be a nice fairy tale but this is not one of those tales. No, dear reader, after a while, those thoughts once again crept in, slyly sneaking and slithering along like that bad old snake in the Garden so long ago, until Hope started to have fear again. One little spat, one little comment from him, and through no fault of his, the doubts were alive and well again tormenting Hope. Only now she really had something to lose.
What if he sees the real me? He cannot really love me. I am fooling myself again. How stupid for me to believe that I am lovely and valued? she thought to herself.
Hope desperately wanted him to give her the kiss that would last forever and transform the beast she felt she was inside into the beauty that she so wanted to be, the beauty she really was before those devilish roots took hold in her heart and mind.
Hope desperately wanted to be brave, to let him see all of her. She pushed down that voice and did her best to be herself with him but along with those virtuous attempts she also unknowingly mixed in the other things, doing what she always did to make friends. She was so afraid of losing him that she ended up hiding the very thing he loved, herself, and so, it is sad but true, he no longer loved her.
Oh, I ruin everything! I am not lovely and it is true that the world is a cruel place and I refuse to believe or hope again.
Even as she thought this, Hope could hear what a false, whiner she had become. So, she shut up and turned to God, the one who did know her and would always love her.
One day, weeks later, Hope was talking to a friend and sharing the hard lessons she had learned.
"The biggest and hardest lesson I have learned is that I do not trust people. My lack of trust in others makes me do things, protect myself so that I can be sure I am not hurt. I am constantly trying to figure out what others are thinking so that I can decide how much of me to share with them. Oh, this person can only handle this much and that person can handle much more. I realized that I am not being honest because I am always afraid I will not be loved. Looking back, I see what I have done. "
Hope said this in a calm voice because she had talked to God about these things and He had shown her the truth.
The roots of the bitterness the witch had implanted so many years ago had been exposed and it took the loss of a great love to do it. It took breaking Hope's heart to release her from those weeds. That is a very sad way to have to kill the roots of weeds don't you think?
And you know, Hope's friend looked her in the eyes and said,
"But honey, you know that if people could see the Hope I know, you would not have to be afraid because they would love you as I do. You are lovely and kind and so worthy of love."
Hope was so surprised by this but in that moment, she felt such a freedom. She knew that God had once again used something painful to bring about good. Her torn heart was being healed and this time, there were no roots, thorns or burrs from the witch's cold-hearted, thieving kiss that day years ago. She was free and the words of her friend were like the kiss of a charming prince, used to fully awaken her to the truth that she was worthy of love, like all God's children are.
Hope's heart blossomed and good, sweet vines rich with beautiful scented flowers started to grow in place of those nasty weeds. The beauty of the garden in her heart made her remember the witch and she could see now what she couldn't see then as a child. The witch was hurting, just as Hope had been hurting. The witch had allowed her pain and bitterness to make her want to steal joy and hope from another. This made Hope very sad and so the next day she set off to find that witch and deal with her.
Hope made her way to her childhood home and as she went she remembered those wonderful, cherished memories of being a young girl. She stood at the garden gate and smelled the wild roses that twined along the fence, taking in the scent and letting it fill her with peace. Finally, she walked along the well-worn path she used to take to meet with her friends; the trees, the birds and the flowers.
She finally came to the clearing that was her favorite place as a child. As she approached, the trees rustled their leaves in welcome. Sunlight dappled the leaves and shone on the ground where she once danced with such joyful abandon. Wildflowers nodded their heads in greeting and the toadstools perked up their little caps. The birds flitted to and fro amongst the leaves, some darting past her and chirping a greeting. Hope's heart seemed to swell in her chest as she saw her dearest childhood friends and she started to dance and sing. A soothing breeze flowed around her and lifted her skirt as she skipped and swirled to the music of the forest in her head.
After a time, she laid down in the grass and looked up at the bluest of skies through the branches of the tall trees. She thought of her life, of the trials, of the pain and of the joy of having been in love and feeling loved. She gave a start and sat up at that thought for she remembered why she had come to this beloved place.
I have to find that witch Dolores and tell her, Hope thought.
The trees seemed to shiver and shake as if they could hear her thoughts.
No Hope! Please don't go. We have missed you so and don't want to lose you again. The witch is dangerous, you must not go! they seemed to say.
But Hope would not be deterred.
"I am not afraid. I have no fear. I have been freed by God's love from that poor woman's curse. I must go and go I shall." Hope said as she bounded up and set off along the path the witch had taken home on that fateful day she had stolen Hope's joy.
On and on Hope walked. It wasn't hard to find the path for it was very different from her lovely clearing in the forest. The path was dry and dusty. No wildflowers bloomed here. The trees were sad and spindly with dull-looking leaves. Hope saw no living thing scurrying about and as she walked she spied a ramshackle cottage in the distance with pitiful puffs of smoke coming from the broken-down chimney.
Aha, that must be her home. thought Hope.
She was sad when she thought of the cheerful cottage she grew up in when compared to this hovel.
No one should have to live in a place this. It's no wonder Dolores had such a bad attitude.
Hope came to the door of the cottage and knocked. She heard some rustling but no one came to the door. The smell of disuse and all kinds of other unpleasant things emanated from behind that door and part of Hope was glad no one answered, but she thought to herself,
Well, there is a fire because I see smoke. Maybe she is not well or has fallen or hurt herself. I guess I better just go in.
She cracked the front door carefully and peered in, not wanting to be rude or startle the woman. She squinted her eyes and she could see through the darkness into the back of the cottage a pile of what looked like rags laying on the bed. She saw no signs of life in the cottage until the pile of rags moved a little.
Hope rushed into the cottage and over to the bed and found that the pile of rags was Dolores. The poor woman was glassy eyed and moving feebly in the bed, obviously not well.
"Oh Dolores! What is wrong? Are you sick? How can I help you?" Hope cried as she placed her hand on Dolores' matted hair atop her too-warm head.
Dolores flinched at Hope's touch and tried to turn away but Hope would not let her go. She sat next to Dolores on the bed and stroked her arm.
"Please Dolores, tell me what is wrong, what I can do for you?"
Hope was quite distressed. Slowly Dolores turned towards Hope and when their eyes met, Dolores' eyes lit with recognition. Instantly, she closed her eyes and shuddered.
"Dolores, do you recognize me? I am Hope. I met you once in the forest. Please let me help you."
As Dolores did not or could not reply, Hope jumped up and rushed to open the windows to let in fresh air. She went to the well to bring Dolores some cool water and she wet a piece of the cleanest rag she could find to place on Dolores' feverish head. After she managed to cajole Dolores into drinking some of the refreshing water, Dolores cleared her throat and croaked,
"Why are you here? How can you help me after what I did to you?" Dolores took another long drink of the healing water.
Hope smiled and looked at Dolores.
"Dolores, what you did to me that day was wrong but what I let it do to me was wrong also. We, you and I, both have done wrong in not believing in our value in God's eyes. I do not hate you. I came here to see you to try to help you see that it is possible to be lovely, to believe that life is good and people are not all bad. It is all possible with God's love."
With that, Hope reached down and kissed Dolores on her cheeks, first one, then the other. Her cheeks felt wrinkled, dry, dirty and cold as Hope pressed her warm, soft lips upon her but Hope did not care because being filled with love means that you do not care what one looks like, only that the love filling us comes from the One who loves us all.
Dolores closed her eyes and became very still. For a moment, Hope thought she had just died on the spot but then she saw Dolores' withered, frail frame heave a huge sigh. When Dolores opened her eyes, they were filled with tears and she smiled the most lovely, pure, sincere smile an ugly old, unloved witch has ever smiled, and said,
"Thank you Hope."
Now, wouldn't it be nice if I could tell you that Dolores and Hope lived happily ever after, and that Hope's young man came back to her and loved her till the end of time? Yes, it would be but that is not the case. Dolores did not live much longer but the life she had left was freed from her bitterness that day Hope shared her forgiveness, love and the reality of the love of God. And Hope continued being herself, her true self, sharing freely, learning to trust, helping others, loving God and occasionally dancing and singing with her forest friends. She couldn't help that, it was a deep part of her.
As I have said, this is not your usual fairy tale. No human prince rescued Hope from her curse. No happy ending of true love from a man do I write here for Hope. Someday, maybe she will meet someone who she can share herself with and perhaps that will be another story.
In this fairy tale, I share that while life can be ugly and people can be mean and love can hurt sometimes, what Hope and Dolores learned is so very true. True love is forgiving and when one is loved, they are beautiful and worthy and treasured. God loves us all that way and that is the one truth we can depend upon as we walk this Earth.
Dear reader, we must never forget this. God's love is the true, sure weed-killer.
And for Hope and those who believe, this is truly,