The Three Leaves' Wishes
(an original fable)
A well-told fable may be among the greatest teachers any of us will ever meet - be we children or adults. My son and I created the following fable as he was growing up, over a period of many a night, many years ago. (We actually created sixteen such fables altogether.) Quite a number of my former students have told me this particular fable bettered their lives, though most said they did not realize it until several years after they first read it. And for this specific fable, what a perfectly fitting end that is … as the reader will see.
Early one spring, three young leaves were born beneath the sun.
The young three sprouted out . . . each from a tiny twig near the top of a tall tree.
Every new day, the sun rose a bit earlier and found the three young leaves wishing. Each leaf wished for all the wonderful things they might do someday when they became grown leaves. None of the three leaves had yet decided what their one most special wish might be.
One day, toward the middle of spring, the three leaves awoke to find the Wind taking on one of his many forms. This time the Wind visited the leaves as a sweet springtime breeze, blowing gently through their tree.
The spring breeze brought with it a strange sound. It was sort of a rustling noise that the three leaves had not heard before. This strange rustling noise seemed to be coming from above. The three leaves looked up toward the top of their tree. There they saw a crinkled-up, wrinkled, old leaf.
This old leaf was rare indeed, one of the few of his kind who would ever live to see a fifth season. (None of the three would admit it, but they were each a bit surprised that they had never noticed this old leaf before.)
The very old leaf looked down and began to speak. His voice crackled with age. "Be careful for what you wish, because wishes really do come true."
"You mean your wish came true?" asked the first leaf of the three.
"Every day," answered the old leaf. "My wish came true every day of my life."
"But you look so wrinkly and old," said the second leaf. "Is that what you wished for - to become all wrinkled and crinkled up?" The three young leaves giggled together with silliness, as young leaves will do.
The old leaf waited patiently (for he had grown very used to waiting patiently) until the three young leaves ceased their silly giggling. Then he spoke again. "I wished to become wise," he answered. "To become wise, I had to live through a long hard winter."
"But did you know all along", asked the third leaf, "that your wish was coming true?"
"My wish came true every day of my life," answered Wise Old Leaf. "But all along I never knew it . . . that is, until today. Today I discovered that wishes often come true in disguise."
The spring breeze blew again, only the tiniest bit harder than before.
Snap! Wise Old Leaf fell loose from the tree and twirled down past the young three. As he floated, Wise Old Leaf strained hard to speak his last words. "Your wishes will come true, I promise you! But I promise this too - you may not recognize your wishes as they happen. Wishes often come true in disguise!"
Never again did the three leaves mention Wise Old Leaf . . . never again, at least not to each other. But each night, as they slept, his dying words returned to life. His words lived on in their dreams.
By the end of spring, each of the three leaves had decided on one very special wish, all their own.
The first leaf, the elder brother, was the first to announce his wish. "I wish to become a great explorer!" he proclaimed. "Someday I'll go on the most fantastic adventures. I'll discover many new places. From now on, you can call me Explorer Leaf!"
The other two leaves burst out laughing at their big brother, making Explorer a bit angry . . . and more than a bit embarrassed. They tried to restrain their laughter, but just couldn't seem to help it.
"My wish will come true. You'll see!" Explorer Leaf shouted at his little brother and sister. "Then you'll both be sorry you made fun of me."
"We're sorry we laughed at you," admitted his younger brother and sister. "And we really don't mean to make fun of your wish. But, big brother, it's just that . . . well, how can a leaf explore the world when hanging from a tree?”
Explorer Leaf stiffened his green stem and said, "Just you wait and see! I’ve been listening to the migrating birds while they roost in our tree. I’ve heard them speak of wondrous faraway things and places. I’m going to explore places a leaf can’t even imagine.”
This time, his little brother and sister said . . . nothing. They only exchanged a brief glance with each other in silence.
So Explorer Leaf spoke again, "Anyway, now it's your turn to tell me about your wishes."
The second leaf spoke up quickly, stretching out to his tallest height. He had the look of a leaf who been preparing a speech in his mind for quite some time. "I wish to become a famous soldier! I predict that someday I'll be known to every tree in the forest. And I'll be known for one thing above all - unselfish courage. From now on, call me Soldier Leaf."
His brother and sister laughed harder than they'd ever laughed before. When they finally stopped, Soldier Leaf spoke up again. "You'll be sorry you laughed at me. You'll see! Someday I'll be known as the bravest soldier this forest ever knew."
His older brother and little sister both apologized. "We're truly sorry," they said. "But we just can't imagine anything so brave that a leaf could ever do . . . at least, nothing so brave and courageous that every tree in the forest would know about it."
"You'll see!" shouted Soldier Leaf, now more certain than ever of his wish. "I'll do something so brave and unselfish that even Ancient Oak will speak out about it. And our tree says she hasn't uttered a word in two hundred seasons. Anyway . . . little sister, tell us about your wish."
"Yes," agreed Explorer Leaf. "Now, tell us, little sister. What great things are you going to do?"
The third leaf mumbled and stuttered around a bit on her stem. Then she replied, “I suppose I’ll just do what leaves do. Down below, while roots are busy soaking up water and gathering minerals from the soil to feed our tree, I’ll do my part by capturing sunlight from above. And when the time comes that our tree doesn’t need me anymore, I’ll fall away to Mother Earth and feed the soil. Even my death will bring life to others. So I guess I just want to be . . . I want to be . . . a good leaf."
"A good leaf!" cried her brothers. "Good grief! What kind of wish is that?"
"Well," mumbled their little sister, "it doesn't matter to me if I never go on any great adventures. And I don't care if I'm ever famous. I just want to be who I am. From now on, you can call me . . . well, I guess . . . just call me Good Leaf.”
Neither brother laughed. Certainly, neither one understood what their little sister meant. And really, neither did Good Leaf. She knew only to follow her wish.
Each of the three leaves kept their wishes throughout the spring. In fact, their wishes grew stronger with each day that the forest turned greener.
Then one day spring turned into summer, as spring always does.
A sudden summer thunderstorm swooped down and caught the three leaves by surprise. Again the Wind would visit the leaves, but not as a gentle, sweet breeze. This time the Wind came as a strong, rough gust.