The Father’s Gift
(This story was originally told to a group of teenagers and young adults)
Once upon a time, a long time ago in the outback of Australia, there lived an old and very wise Indigenous leader. He had only one child, a son, named Bena. As Bena grew up his father and mother cared for him and showed him much love.
Then there came the day when as a young man it was time for Bena to leave his father and mother and his happy home to set out on a long journey. Just before his son left, his father gave him a small package, carefully wrapped in bark and tied tightly with some strong grass.
His instructions to Bena were be extremely careful. This package is very special. You must not open it until it is the ‘right time’. “How will I know when?” asked Bena. “I will leave that up to you, but I tell you that you must wait until you have found the best use of what is inside it”, his father replied. ‘But I don’t know what’s inside’, thought Bena.
Bena set off carefully carrying his special package in his bag. After several days of walking Bena stopped by a small waterhole surrounded by bushy gums. His feet were tired and he lay down to rest. He was missing his parents and his home. As he was feeling sorry for himself he saw his bag. ‘Maybe I could open the package now because I am feeling lonely. There might be something insider to cheer me up. Could this be the ‘right time’ that his father had spoken about? Surely I deserve a little reminder of my family’.
As he reached for the bag he thought further… ‘I’m sure my father would have wanted the very best for me… but I think I’ll wait to open the package tomorrow - I’m sure to feel different.‘ Just then his attention was distracted by a herd of kangaroos that hopped down to the edge of the waterhole to drink.
A few days later Ben’s track turned into a sandy desert with a few stumpy bushes. The sun rose high in the sky and he became very thirsty. He kept going expecting to find a dry creek where he could dig for water, but none came. As he walked on with the hot sand biting into his feet, he thought, ‘Maybe I should open the package now, there might be some soothing gum oil or even some dried food. Now must be the right time’. But once again he thought, ‘If my father only wanted to give me these things he wouldn’t have told me that it was special. So, I must wait until the ‘right time’.
For months and months Bena wandered. Staying with friendly tribes of Indigneous people along the way until one day he came upon a family camped under a group of tall gum trees. It was a large family with many brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts but one person stood out to Bena in particular. As he stayed for a few days which turned into weeks he found he wanted to spend more and more time with a lovely young lady called Milly.
He spent so much time there that he almost forgot about the package from his father. Eventually arrangements were made for Bena and Milly to be married. Bena thought, ‘I will surprise Milly as I will open my package and give her what is inside as a special wedding gift. Surely this must be the right time’. But when he came to open the package on his wedding night his hand stopped untying the grass. ‘No!’, thought Bena, ‘My father gave this to me as something very special. I would like to give this to my new wife to open – this is how much I love her’.
That night he told Milly the whole story of the special package and handed the gift over to her. Milly slowly opened the bark package to find that there was nothing inside except for some writing. Written on the bark was a message from his father. ‘Nothing is as precious as love that is given away’.
Bena looked at Milly in the eyes and they smiled broadly to one another, and Bena said ‘Yes this is the right time’.
© Don Stott 2018 eliab.com