But he was old.
He was not the meanest old man living in a big house next to the big river.
But he was mean.
He did not have the biggest pile of gold of all the old men living in big houses next to the big river.
But he did have a big pile of gold.
Every day the old man would sit in his big house next to the big river and smile at his big pile of gold.
“Nothing is better than gold,” he would say. But there was no one there to hear him. No one who cared what he said or thought or did. No one who cared if he lived or died.
Sometimes he would look out his windows and watch people in the park next to his big house next to the big river.
After a few minutes, he would turn away, shaking his head.
“No one gives you gold for wasting time having fun,” he would say.
Whenever he saw a family having a picnic in the park, he would shake his head.
“No one gives you gold for being nice or spending time with your family,” he would say.
Then, what the old man would later call a miracle, happened.
It rained three days in a row. But that was not the miracle.
Each day, after the rain stopped, a rainbow appeared far away on the other side of the river. But that was not the miracle.
Each day, the rainbow moved. It didn’t just move. It came right at him and stopped in the river so close he could almost touch it. But that was not the miracle, either.
The miracle, as told by the old man, was what happened to him after each rainbow.
After the first rainbow, the old man realized there many things that are better than gold, including, friends, family, and doing good things in the world.
After the second rainbow, the old man decided he would use his pile of gold to help others and to do good things in the world.
After the third rainbow, the old man’s life was changed forever.
When the third rainbow was still so close he could almost touch it, the old man saw a beautiful old woman sitting alone on a bench in the park. “It’s my grandmother?” he said. “But it can’t be. She died when I was still a boy.”
The old man picked up his umbrella, even though it had stopped raining, opened his front door, and walked over to the bench where the beautiful old woman was sitting.
“Grandma?” he said. “Can it really be you?”
The old woman was looking at where the rainbow met the water. “Do you remember the rainbow stories I told you when you were very young?”
“The end of the rainbow,” he said. “I remember. The stories were about Rainbowland, a magical place with an entrance at the end of the rainbow guarded by leprechauns who allowed only those with pure hearts to pass.”
The old man leaned back against the bench and thought about the stories his grandma told him when he looked for comfort from teachers who thought he was stupid because he could’t read or write or talk in class, and from bullies who bullied anyone who was different. He remembered his grandmother’s stories always began with him running away from meanness and finding the end of a rainbow where leprechaun guards would welcome him back.
“Once inside,” he said, “you had me solve problems others could not solve and find ways to make Rainbowland better. You had me do things I could never do outside Rainbowland. You made me a hero.”
The old woman smiled.
“After each story,” he continued, “I always asked if I made Rainbowland better by bullying the bullies. And you always said the same thing. ‘Bullies are weak. Those with good hearts are strong. And it is those with good hearts who make the world better. You have the strongest heart of all. It is why the people of Rainbowland elected you their leader. And if you follow your good heart outside Rainbowland, and use the energy of the rainbow, you will do great things and make the world better for everyone.’”
The old man remembered what his grandma had told him about the strength of a good heart.
He also remembered how he had lost his good heart while he worked so hard to get his big pile of gold.
“There really are things that are better than gold,” he said. “That is what your stories were about. That is why you sent the three rainbows, isn’t it, grandma?”
But when the old man turned to look at his grandma, she was gone.
When he turned back to look at the rainbow, it was gone, too.
But the energy of the rainbow was still there.
And his thoughts about all the good things he now knew he could do by using his gold and the energy of the rainbow to make the world better were stronger than ever.
Most important, the old man once again found his good heart while sitting on a bench in the park looking at the end of a rainbow that was so close he could almost touch it.
© Copyright 2019 Bill Ulrich.