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by Richard L. Provencher  
3/02/2007 / Christian Living

One day, a stranger stepped carefully off the highway. Then climbed down the rocky embankment. He crossed into a beautiful green valley that surrounded Truro, Nova Scotia. His cane added strength to a sore leg. There were no bugles playing. Neither was there a crowd of people to cheer his arrival. But he had several distinctive features. He wore a tam.

His age may be guessed by the many wrinkles on his face. He was very short, almost the same height as a regular eight year old boy. And stood perhaps four feet tall in his stocking feet. When he smiled, it seemed as if warmth pressed against your face. Happiness shone in his eyes.

Passers-by could hardly miss noticing him. Some felt it would be appropriate to call him, "SHORTY." Thankfully, they still had some manners. He crossed a small bridge then paused. A friendly breeze carried the scent of new mown hay. Nearby, a farmer's house meant food, perhaps a rest in the barn. Maybe, even a piece of pumpkin pie. His favorite.

One little boy leaning against a tree boldly asked, "Who are you?"

"Goodness is my name," the man answered. The sound of his voice was melodious, as a hummingbird's flutter of wings. There was a hint of dryness in the stranger's voice.

Well, this little boy was confused. He knew "Good" meant "Being Good." Or getting homework completed for Miss Silver, his grade three teacher. But. "Goodness," as a name?

Just then, an old car barely made it across the bridge. The motor coughed and spluttered, finally giving up. The short man quickly fixed it with a wave of his right hand. Or had the car simply stalled? Others may say he fully understood the workings of mechanical things. Then he was on his way.

Repairing the car for Uncle Steve really made the little boy happy. Now he could get a ride home. Mom would be pleased he wasn't late for supper. Again. A barrier now blocked the trail. An angry Terrier barked at the stranger. Her babies had been given away. And in desperation, was searching for them. But no one had been interested in helping her.

Something about the stranger took away her fear. Was it his soothing hands? Maybe the beef sandwich the stranger shared? The poor dog had not eaten for several days. Certainly not fine food such as this. A kindness cemented their friendship. Dog and Stranger were now pals.

As the stranger approached, people hurried by on the sidewalk. He didn't appear well dressed for shopping in town. If they only knew his small knapsack held a wonderful treasure. It was all he desired to survive each day.

Children seemed to follow, wherever he went. They were curious at first. A few tried name-calling. But for some unknown reason, their harsh words were turned aside. Before long, children's taunts turned to song. And mean tempers from adults turned their thoughts to feelings of friendship. It was as if the stranger was able to encourage good thinking.

He was able to turn frowns into smiles. And images of anger turned people's thoughts into caring. And several couples decided to baby-sit their friend's children. Even shopping for an elderly neighbor. Others got busy and cut an overgrown lawn for a friend.

It was not long before his peculiar shortness didn't seem important. His look was full of compassion. And soothing words of encouragement gained new friends. When an unpopular child received his glance, other children soon wanted to be their pal.

When he sat at a rundown restaurant for a sandwich, everyone stared through the windows. Later, business became very brisk. As he passed by the only school in town, children watched from windows. A bark from the dog amazed everyone. It was the first time in a long while the animal made any noise. The once mean dog now licked every reaching hand. Making new friends was also a pleasant experience for the little fellow.

People's lives changed as the stranger and dog traveled around town. Anger and unsmiling faces soon turned to a new caring. Neighbors became close friends and love was more than just a word. Then one day, there was panic in the streets.

Somewhere around the bend in the road, man and dog disappeared. It was their last time seen in town. Townspeople searched everywhere. Men, women and children looked in alleys and deserted corners. They had teams of rescuers searching in the countryside. Their seeking also took place in barns and beside riverbeds.

Finally, on the side of a little side trail, his packsack was found. And on a folded note, a scrawled message: "PEACE ON EARTH," it read.

During the next few weeks, the town developed a new plan. A welcoming committee met any strangers coming into this valley. And that person was quickly taken to the most comfortable room in someone's home. A generous slice of pumpkin pie followed supper.

The town's new kindness also included any stray dog. They too were to be taken in. Then given a bath, dried off and a tummy filled with food. And all done in the hope their stranger and his dog returned. Or perhaps their own children even an offspring to the Terrier who once roamed their valley.

Very important to all, the town's new name, no longer was 'End of the Trail.' A bright new sign said it all, 'WELCOME TO GOODNESS.' And In brackets just below the town's name-- (especially if you have a dog).

* * *

(c) Richard L. Provencher 2004

Richard enjoys writing poems; many of which have been published in Print and Online. He and his wife, Esther are also co-authors of stories and a print novel. They are "born again" Christians and very busy in their church, Abundant Life Victory International, in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.

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