The Legend Of Christmas
Vigilance--Part II of V
"The First Secret Of The Stranger"
GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Dec. 20, 2003 -- "No one knew how long
the Beast of Holiday Terror ruled the land," said the Sentinel of Vigilance,
sweeping his strong, calloused hand in a wide arc over the children's
It was the second night of the StoryTelling.
Earlier, as the night before, the young ones poured into the Great Hall,
deposited their boots, coats, scarves and mittens, drank heartily of the
steaming hot chocolate, tasted of the candies and cookies, romped in the
Sentinel's chair, then took their posts in a circle awaiting his words.
"Everyone was afraid of the Beast," said the
Sentinel. "He sat on a pile of rocks in the center of the Land
of Poverty, as it was known at the time, hissing and flapping his bat-like
wings, frightening the children, the parents, grandparents and loved ones
who scooped up their children and ran into their houses whenever he
"What did he look like, Sentinel? The
The children hugged one another, anticipating the
scary nature of the words that would follow. "Oh, he was
very, very mean looking. He had red coal eyes that burned
and smoked. On cold days, steam rose from his nostrils located
at the end of a long snout twice as wide as that of the fattest pig you have
ever seen. His skin was made of scales, heavy, thick black
plates that grew patches of green, slimy fungus and gave off a stench that
made all the people put their hands to their face."
"Ahhhhgggghhhh..." proclaimed one little
boy, standing and holding his nose. "I bet he didn't take a bath
"No," replied the Sentinel, smiling.
"He was a very bad, bad Beast. He would open his huge wings and
whip the coldest winds upon the village, even in the summer. If
a flower popped out of the ground, he would swoop down and rip it from the
earth with his long, sharp talons. He wanted no one to be happy.
He wanted only sadness and despair to rule the Land."
"He was mean. A mean
Beast!" A little girl with a red bow in her hair shook her finger at
the air. "I bet he made everyone mad, being so mean."
The Sentinel reached up and waxed his
beard with his hand, his eyes scanning the children's rapt faces.
"Oh, he was, Little One. He was the
meanest creature on earth. He would fly over the Land and his
scales would fall like rocks from the sky when he itched himself with his
sharp claws. People ducked and ran to avoid being hit by them.
When they went in search of wood for fires, the Beast would pop out of the
trees and yell 'Boo!' and make them run and drop their axes and saws.
And, at night, the Beast would call the wolves to come and howl and bay at
the doors of the houses. Babies cried in mother's arms, children
were afraid to shut their eyes, and mothers and fathers bolted their doors
and huddled in the cold, listening to the wolves scratching at their doors."
"Scaring little babies!
That is awful!"
"It was," continued the Sentinel.
"There was only sadness in the sky. The sun never seemed to
shine. It was wet and damp all the time, and the chill seemed to
wrap itself around all the people like a wet old blanket. But
the Beast loved it, for people were afraid of him, intimidated by his
presence, and, worst of all complacent to challenge him for he seemed so big
and powerful over them."
"How did they make him go away?
What happened?" A boy with freckles addressed the question to the
"One day a Stranger came into
the village. No one knows from where. Some say from the
North, others say from the South, still others the West and East.
He slipped past the Beast, for no one dared come to the village for fear the
Beast would hiss hot fire at them. The earth was scorched by the
Beast's breath, and anyone who tried to leave the village never got far.
It was as though the Beast could hear everyone's footsteps, and if they
started to leave, the Beast would fly in front of them and bully them back,
threatening them with his talons and wings. So, the people were
quite surprised to see the Stranger."
"What did he look like? Was it you,
Sentinel? Was he very old with a white beard and lots of wrinkles?"
The Sentinel smiled at the young girl who
posed the question. "No, he was very young and very handsome.
The people knew immediately he was a Stranger because he was smiling and
happy, and they were all sad and frowning. And his eyes danced.
The people of the village had long since had the light in their eyes dimmed
and dulled by the Beast. The Hope and Belief they once had that
the Beast would go away had left them. They were resigned to
live their lives with the sunlight, joy and happiness of life. The
Stranger's eyes were like Christmas trees, full of life and vigor. His
eyes smiled from within."
"He was, maybe, Santa Clause?"
"In a way, he was, Little One.
Anyone who brings the gift of joy and happiness to children is certainly
Santa's helper. But he brought the greatest of all gifts to the
Land of Poverty."
"What was that, Sentinel?"
"He brought something that had been
lost long ago by the parents and grandparents and loved ones. He
brought them back the gift of Hope and Belief."
"Did he carry a sack with gifts wrapped
"Well," Sentinel said, wagging his finger
toward the Little One who had asked the question, "he brought three gifts to
the people, just like many others bring three gifts to people seeking a
better way of life."
"What were they? What were
they?" The children pressed forward.
"Tonight, I will tell you about only one of
them. Tomorrow night, I'll tell you about the other, and, the next
night, I'll unwrap the final present he brought. First, what do you
think was in one of the gifts he gave the people that night to rid the land
of the Beast of Terror?"
"A spear, to kill the Beast!"
"A sword to slay him!"
"Armor, so the people could fight him
without getting burned or hit by the Beast's scales!"
The Sentinel smiled and leaned back in the
Great Chair. "No, my Little Ones. The Beast would
have liked that. Violence begets violence, and the Beast thrives
on the food of revenge, hate and battle. The Stranger
brought something far more powerful than a sword or spear."
"What, Sentinel? What? What was
"It was a puzzle."
The Sentinel cocked his head and placed his
chin in the cup of his hand, offering the children a curious face.
"I am going to make a sentence with the Letters of Vigilance. You try
and guess what the gift was that was hidden within it. Are you all
The Sentinel took a deep breath as the children's
anticipation grew. "The Stranger gathered all the parents,
grandparents, children, uncles, aunts, cousins and loved ones into one of
the houses. He told them they must uncover and discover for
themselves what it would take to rid the Land of Poverty of the Beast of
Terror. He took from his knapsack a packet of letters and spread
them on the floor. Then he arranged the following sentence."
The Sentinel reached down beside the
chair and spilled onto the wooden, warm floor a bagful of letters.
He leaned down and began to arrange them into words. The children
scooted closer, peering over one another's shoulders to watch the unveiling
of the sentence. When he was finished the sentence read: "Cee
Our Unity Repels A Great Enemy."
"Do you see the answer, Little Ones?"
The little boy with freckled laughed.
"Sentinel, you goofed!"
"I did," boomed the Sentinel, smiling
as he sat upright and scratched his forehead as though he might have erred.
"You misspelled one of the words!"
"See. You used a 'C' instead of
"Are you sure?" The Sentinel poked
his finger into his cheek and winked.
"Is Cee part of the puzzle,
Sentinel?" asked the little girl with the red ribbon glistening in her hair.
"Look carefully. What does the
A hand shot up from the shy girl who
was swallowed by the fleece of the Great Chair.
"Yes, Little One?"
"It means that everyone has to work
together to get the Beast to go away!"
"Yes, that's part of the message.
But, is there something more. What was the gift the words gave the
Another Little One, who had been studying
the words silently, began to jump and down. "I see it, Sentinel.
I see the gift. It's kind of hidden in the words, right?"
"That's right. Everyone look at
the words again. And, if you know the answer, don't yell it out yet.
Let everyone discover the gift for themselves.
All eyes fell upon them: "Cee Our
Unity Repels A Great Enemy!"
"I see it too," shouted another Little One.
"And, I see it also," chimed yet another
"Okay," said the Sentinel. If you
know the answer, whisper it to the one next to you. Share the secret, for
the greatest gift you have is the one you give to someone who doesn't have
what you have."
Soon, the room was buzzing with
whispers. Faces beamed. The firelight danced off the
children's rosy, excited faces.
"Yes, you, Little One. Come up
and show us all what the first of the three gifts were the Stranger gave the
The shy girl who had first noticed the
secret message threaded her way through arms and legs of the other children,
careful not to step on a finger or hand as she picked her way up to the
"Show us all the answer."
The girl knelt before the letters and
removed the two "e's" from the word Cee, the "o" and "r" from Our, the "n-i-t-y"
from Unity, the "e-p-e-l-s" from Repels. She left the "A" and pushed
away the "r-e-a-t" from Great and the "n-e-m-y" from Enemy.
"C-O-U-R-A-G-E," said the shy Little One,
her Voice clear and crisp, unwavering as she spelled out the secret.
"The Stranger gave the people Courage, is that it, Sentinel? Courage?"
"Exactly, Little One. The first of
the Great Principles of Vigilance is Courage. The people had forgotten
how to have it. Courage is the sum of individual beliefs, Little Ones.
We all have some Courage, but when we come together as one, we have an
unlimited amount. You know, when you are afraid, you can feel
brave for a little while. But, after a while, you start to feel
frightened again. Well, Courage comes in packages. When we start
to feel afraid, it means our Courage is starting to leak. Like a
bucket with a hole in it. That's why we run to our mothers or fathers
or grandmothers to feel their strong arms. We need their Courage
to help give us Courage. The more we are all Courageous, the
more Courage we all have. Courage is a well from which we all need to
draw from its strength. If you are afraid Little One, and your
brother or sister hugs you and stands with you against your fear, do you
feel more afraid or less afraid?"
"I feel less afraid, Sentinel."
"And, if all the children and all the
parents and grandparents stand together, and hold onto one another against
Fear, do you think Fear has a chance?"
"No, Sentinel. Fear would be afraid
of Courage if Courage stood up long enough."
"That's exactly, right, Little One.
The Land of Poverty had lost its memory. It lost the belief in
Unity, that together the parts are bigger than any Beast, any Fear.
The sentence, Cee Our Unity Repels A Great Enemy means that if we all stand
up against the Beast, he will not win. His great fiery breath,
his snorting nose, his sharp jagged teeth, his curled talons, his
fungus-laden scales, his dark shadow over us, will be repelled. It
will be pushed away. But only if we call upon our Courage.
If we ask for at least One Percent more Courage within us than the Fear of
things outside or inside us, we can defeat the Beast of Terror. We can
drive him from our Land of Poverty and turn it into a Land of Prosperity."
The freckled boy raised his
"Did Courage drive the Beast
away, Sentinel? When the people remembered that gift of Courage
the Stranger brought, did the Beast run away?"
"No," the Sentinel said.
"There were two more gifts yet to be given that would insure the Beast would
be banished. Courage was only the first of the three."
"What were the other two?"
"Ah," said the Sentinel.
"That will come tomorrow. But, for tonight, when you go home and
dream, dream about Courage. Dream about how all of you, all of us,
together, can be so much stronger than we can by ourselves.
Dream of how your Courage comes from within, and its power and strength
depends on others sharing your Courage."
"We will, Sentinel. We
"And tomorrow, we'll learn
about the second gift from the Stranger."
"Will it be a puzzle too?"
asked the Shy One.
"We'll see," said the Sentinel.
(end of Part II of V)
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