Friday, 10 October 2014

The hole in the sack - a Harvest story

I wrote this for a harvest assembly for children aged from 3 to 7. It was (very) loosely inspired by the story of the man who built bigger barns, which would have been inappropriate for this very young age. I noticed the way that in the story (Luke 12.16-21) the man appears to be totally alone The pronouns are all “I” – there isn’t even any mention of his own household – and it seemed to me to be significant and sad.
("What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”)

The other starting point for the story was the Old Testament requirement that the edges of the fields should be left unreaped, and any corn not cut in the first reaping be left, so that the landless poor could glean it, something that would be horrifying to any efficiency expert today…

It is an original story by me - you are welcome to use it, but please don't spread it about without my name attached to it. 

Need: A sack with a small hole – big enough to stick your finger through – in the bottom to be produced at appropriate moments in the story. It is not essential, but I think it helped the children to visualise the scene. They enjoyed spotting how the seed had come to be sown, so it was good in the telling to have given them the clues, but not told them how the grain got out until the point that the farmer realised it!

There was once a rich farmer who had lots of land to grow his crops, and lots of money. One spring morning he decided it was time to sow the wheat seed in his field. He called for his worker and gave him a sack which was hanging on a nail by the door.  “Fill this with seed and we will carry it to the field to sow it.” The farmer didn’t notice, though, that the sack had a little hole in one corner where a mouse had nibbled it. The worker took it away and filled it up. He didn’t notice the litte hole that the mouse had nibbled either.

They set off through the village with the worker carrying the sack of seed on his back. As they walked along they passed a row of cottages where some very poor people lived. They didn’t have any fields to sow seed in – just a bit of muddy ground in front of their houses. And they didn’t have any seed either. As the farmer went by they called out to him. “Mr Farmer, we have no seed to sow in our gardens, and we see that you have plenty. Won’t you give us just a handful, so that we can sow our little patch of ground and grow some wheat for our children?”
“I can’t do that,” said the Farmer. “ This is my seed, and I am going to sow it in my ground, where it will grow into my wheat that I will grind into my flour for me to eat!” And he and his servant went on.

When he got to his fields they sowed the seed all over the ground till the sack was empty, but still they didn’t notice the little hole that the mouse had nibbled. Then they went home again.

The sun shone and the rain fell, and pretty soon the wheat in the farmer’s fields started to grow. It grew taller and taller as the months passed. The sun shone and it turned from green to golden as it ripened. Then one day he knew it was ready to be cut. Each little seed had grown into a new plant and each one had lots of seed on it now. So he sent out his servants to cut the wheat and bring it back to store in his barns.
What a fine harvest – he thought – and all mine!

That evening, though, there was a knock at his door. “That’s funny – I wasn’t expecting anyone.” If the truth be known he didn’t have many friends!
He opened the door and there outside were all his neighbours, the ones who had asked him for seed in the springtime. The ones he had said no to.
They were holding in their hands, a great big fresh loaf of bread.

“We’ve come to say thank you” they said. You said that you couldn’t give us any seed, but then you must have come back and sown some anyway, because during the summer, all along the pathways at the front of our houses – all the way from your house to your field, lovely golden wheat has grown. And now we have cut it down, and stored away plenty for the winter. But we have taken some of it, ground it up into flour, baked it into bread and brought it to you, to say thank you for giving us the seed. We are having a harvest party tonight to celebrate and we would love it if you would come.”  The farmer didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t given them the seed, even if he really felt he should have done. So how did it come to be growing there?

He was very puzzled. But then he noticed the sack the seed had been in, hanging on the nail by the door, and he suddenly saw the little hole that the mouse had nibbled. And suddenly he realised what had happened… And I expect you have realised it too…

He felt really mean and miserable. These people thought he had been kind and generous, but really it had just been an accident. As they had walked along, some of the seed had just trickled out of the hole. He hadn’t even noticed, because there was so much in the sack to start with. He could have easily spared that seed for these people. And now here they were inviting him to their party!

“I am so sorry,” he said, “but I didn’t give you the seed – it just fell from the sack – but I wish I had given it to you…and I would really like to have come to your party” – he had realised just how lonely it would be eating all his fine harvest by himself – “but I am sure you won’t want me now you know the truth!”

But the people on the doorstep just laughed. “Well, maybe we should have invited the mouse instead then, but we would still be glad if you came because no one should be on their own at harvest time.” So the farmer went to the party, and it was the best party he had ever been to.

And then next spring he sowed up the hole in the corner of the sack…and he sent the whole sack to his neighbours, and gave them some land to sow the seed in too, because he had realised that when we share with others we make new friends, and friends are always better than money!

copyright: Anne Le Bas