A Fairy Tale of Kindness

Once, on a day when winter rain fell from the sky and the air pierced the skin with a bone-seeping chill, an old ragged woman sat on a log alongside a crossroads in the middle of a forest. She was haggard and shivering, the patches in her ancient woolen cloak soaking her through, and just when she didn’t think she’d be able to bear it any longer, a girl in a red-hooded cloak came traipsing up to her.

            ‘Grandmother, you are so very cold,’ she said. ‘Won’t you come with me to my mother’s house and warm yourself?’

            ‘Ah, child, I would that I could, but I have made a promise to keep the rain company as long as it falls, for once when I was young, I made a vow that I would do so.’ The old woman’s voice rasped and the use of it set her throat to coughing.

            The girl cocked her head, and then turned and ran away along down the path. But not more than half an hour passed before she returned, a steaming bowl of stew in her hands.

            ‘Eat this, grandmother,’ she said, then turned to run away again.

            In another half hour she returned again, this time with a woolen cloak, used but unpatched, which she draped around the old woman’s shoulders.

            ‘I hope that sees you through,’ the girl said. And then, thinking there was no more she could do, she turned and went home.

            And as she walked away, the old woman sat and stared after her, and then she started to smile. When the girl turned around once more to wave farewell, there was no one sitting at the crossroads in the middle of the forest. But a warm soft light came from the inside of the log. Curious, the girl went to see what it was the made the log glow. Tipping her head into a hole that was exactly where the old woman had sat, her eyes opened wide.

Inside were hundreds of tiny fairies.

            As she leaned further in, the fairies noticed her presence, and as one they flew to her. Frozen still with wonder, the girl did not move while each fairy came and placed a kiss upon her forehead.

            And when the girl turned out the light to sleep that night, she realized that she, too glowed.

            For that is what happens to those who offer acts of kindness.

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