By Celia Coates
Years ago I heard a simple story that I’d never heard before:
Once upon a time there were two creatures, one red and one green, who lived in a forest near the top of a mountain. They had lived there for centuries and even though Green was easy-going and liked peace and harmony and Red liked the push-and-pull of disagreement, they had always been friends. Both of them had magical powers as well as having very, very long lives.
They’d had no problems, no burdens, no fears and they hadn’t wanted anything to change in all those centuries. Often when they had nothing else to do, they sat on the top of the mountain and looked down into the world of humans. The storyteller said that, “They watched all the people and what they were doing, walking up and down and all that, and they watched the world change.”
Green said to Red, “Our life never changes. Every day is the same.”
Red said, “You’re right, our world doesn’t change.”
Green was curious and asked, “How does change happen for the humans?”
Red said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t always get along with each other. Remember when they built a beautiful, big building and there was a fight and it got destroyed? Then they built a new and different one. They have wars and there is always something to do and things keep changing. Our world is too peaceful, too boring. We should have some fights.”
Green said, “No, we’ve always been friends. We can’t fight each other.”
Red said, “Well, I’ve decided – from now on you are my enemy. That’s the way it’s going to be!”
And he moved to the other side of the forest.
Green stayed where he was and felt terrible.
He kept on watching the world of humans by himself. One day he saw something flashing down in that world, and when he looked closer he saw that the servants of a princess were hanging her clothes on a long pole to air them out. The clothes were covered with jewels – rubies and emeralds and diamonds that sparkled and flashed in the sun. Both creatures had the magical ability to reach whatever they wanted by stretching out their arms – sometimes for miles. Green reached out his arm to touch the sparkling clothes. He reached and he reached and it happened that just when the servants ran out of room on the pole, Green’s arm was there and they used it to hang out the rest of the clothes. After the servants went back into the palace, Green pulled his arm back up and some clothes came up too and fell at his feet.
Green put a few of them on and was delighted. Then he wanted to show Red how beautiful the jeweled clothes were. He wanted to share his good luck and give him some of what had come up from the world of humans. Red was not pleased. He said that he didn’t want any clothes and that Green looked silly wearing them. Green said there was no need to be disagreeable and just walked away.
Red was actually jealous and decided to do what Green had done. He stretched his arm down into the world of humans to see what he could find. But this time it happened that Red‘s long arm reached down to where some warriors were practicing their swordsmanship and when they saw the invading arm they swung at it and made deep cuts. Red cried out in pain. Green heard him and came running to see what was wrong.
Red was so embarrassed and angry that he told Green to go away,
“Leave me alone. Don’t bother me!”
Green said, “I’m not bothering you, I’m trying to help. You are bleeding and I know some medicine that will make you feel better.”
Red shouted, “All right, all right! It really hurts. Hurry up and help me.”
So Green stopped the bleeding, put some bandages on Red’s arm, and gave him a potion that took the pain away.
For Red and Green this was the end of being enemies and they went back to getting along.
The storyteller ended by saying something like this:
“We humans have not learned that taking care of each other is the best way to live. We haven’t looked around and seen that we are destroying our world with some of the changes we make and that we are hurting each other by fighting instead of finding a way to get along despite our differences.
May this time when many Western Christians celebrate a new beginning – a birth – with red and green decorations, with giving gifts, and lighting jewel-colored lights, be a season of peace and sharing for everyone.