The Best Laid Plans

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Gloria.  For the first 10 years of her life, it was very normal.  She had a normal house.  And a normal family.  And normal hair.  Then, one day, that all changed.  Gloria had been going to the same hairdresser for her entire life.  On her 10th birthday, when she went for a haircut, everything seemed normal.  Her hairdresser, who spoke like most hairdresser’s do, asked her, “So dahhhling, what do you want today?”

Gloria said she wanted a bob with bangs.  “Ohhkay, sweethawwhht!”  her hairdresser said.  “You got it!”

Her hairdresser took out her scissors, readied herself for the first cut, and “Snip!”  But, looking in mirror, Gloria didn’t see any difference in her hair.  The scissors hadn’t cut her hair.

“Hmmm…dahhling, don’t worry,” said the hairdresser.  “These scissors are OLD!  Let me get a new pair.”

With the shining new pair of scissors, her hairdresser once again got ready for the cut.  “Snip!”  And again, her hair still looked exactly the same.  Why couldn’t the scissors cut her hair?

“Sweetie, I don’t know WHAT is going on, butwhen your hair decides to coorporate again, come back and I’ll give you a cut!” said the hairdresser.

Going home, Gloria’s mother and father were just as puzzled by her hair.  Thinking that maybe Gloria’s hair was just really strong from eating too many vegetables and leafy greens, Gloria’s mother decided to use something a little stronger to cut her daughter’s hair.  Going into the garden shed, she found the tree shear.  ‘These have to work,’ she thought.

Sitting Gloria down in a chair in the kitchen, her mother positioned the shears to cut the back part of her hair (having realized it probably wasn’t a good idea to start with Gloria’s bangs!).  With all of her strength, her mother closed the shears down onto Gloria’s hair.  Crack!  Gloria’s hair was still there, longer than ever, and the tree shears were broken!

Now, Gloria’s mother and father knew that something was definitely wrong.  How could their little girl’s hair break huge metal tree shears? The immediately headed in the car to the hospital, hoping the doctors there could tell them what was wrong.

At the hospital, Gloria was examined by 20 different doctors.  Men and women who were specialists in our nutrition, and our skin, and our bones.  They put her hair under microscopes, they put strangely-smelling chemicals on her hair, and they argued with each other about their different theories for what was happening to Gloria.  Finally, the head doctor came to speak with Gloria and her parents.

“After careful consideration, ” she said, “we have concluded that your daughter is perfectly normal.  There is nothing unique about her hair.”

“Except for the fact that nothing can cut it!” cried her parents together.

“Not to worry,” said the doctor, with authority.  “We have an especially strong laser we use for surgery that will definitely be able to cut your daughter’s hair.  It can cut bone and metal–it will definitely cut her hair.”

Gloria followed the doctor to an operating room and lay down on the metal table.  Her hair hung down off of the table.  Warming up the laser, the doctor said, “Don’t worry, this will all be over in a minute.  You won’t feel a thing!”

Zapp!  The laser moved in a straight line from left to right over Gloria’s long hair.  And still, there was no change.  Her hair looked exactly the same.  The only thing that did change was the table she was laying on.  The doctor must have been a little to excited, because she moved the laser a bit too far to the right and cut a big notch into the metal table with the laser.  And before she could get off, Gloria crashed down with the table.  Boom!  So now, not only did she still have her super-strong long hair, she had a bruised bottom as well!

And so things stayed the same more than they changed.  Gloria got older and with each day her hair got longer.  First, it was long enough to reach her waist.  Then her feet.  Then across the room!  When Gloria was 13, her hair finally got so long that Gloria had trouble walking.  Before school each day she would have to wrap her hair around her head 4 times, and then knot it with five or six ponytail holders and eight or nine barrettes, just so she could walk.  And with all that hair wrapped around her head, she looked like she was wearing a hair-hat each day.  Definitely not a normal look for a 13-year-old girl.

At first Gloria’s classmates didn’t notice her hair.  Once it reached her feet, though, they started to whisper about her.  “What’s wrong with Gloria’s hair?”  “Why won’t she cut it?”  “It looks really weird!”  And then the whispers became shouts and name-calling.  They called her “long-haired loser” and “beardy-weirdy”.  No one wanted to sit with her at lunch.  No one came to play at her house.

Every night, Gloria would pray to God.  “Dear God,” she would say, “please make my hair stop growing.  Please make my hair normal again.  Please help me.”  And each morning when she woke up, her hair was a little longer and her prayers went unanswered.  Gloria started to get angry with God.   Her prayers became a time for yelling at Him.  “Why are you doing this to me?  Why are you punishing me?”

And, as things often happen, God answered her questions one day without saying a word.

It was a wintery morning and Gloria sat in the back of the school bus by herself.  All of the other children sat towards the front, as far away from Gloria as possible.

There was one point in the school bus’ route where it passed a steep ledge, which rose over a frozen lake.  Usually, the bus drove very slowly during this part of the route, since it was a dangerous spot.  On this day, though, another car with a person talking on their cell phone was coming from the other direction.  The driver was not paying attention to the road and swerved into the bus’ lane.  Luckily, the bus drive was paying attention and swerve the bus out of the way, avoiding an accident with the car.  Not so luckily, though, the bus swerved straight off the ledge and into the frozen lake below.  The front of the bus cracked the ice and the entire bus full of children began to sink below the icy water.

Being at the back of the bus, Gloria was still out of the water.  Without even realizing what she was doing, she moved herself to the emergency exit door, opened it, and jumped out of the bus onto the ice.  As she stood there, staring at the bus sinking into the icy water, she cried out in frustration.  How could she help her busmates and the driver?  What could she do?  They would surely drown if she just stood there and did nothing!

And then, she noticed that her long, strong hair had come undone and was lying in a pool at her feet.  She knew what she had to do.  Tying it quickly into a braid, she lowered down into the water and inside the school bus.  Calling down as loudly as she could, she told them to climb up her hair to safety.  One by one, the children and, finally, the driver climbed up Gloria’s hair out of the icy danger and into safety.  Exhausted, cold, and frightened, all of them waited for the ambulance to arrive.

Gloria and her busmates returned from the hospital later that day, after having been checked over for bruises, cuts, or anything else that might have hurt them.  As Gloria stepped into her classroom that afternoon, she simply hoped that no one would notice her.  The day had already been stressful enough! 

Instead, Gloria was met with cheers, applause, and a huge sign across the front of the room that read, “Thank you Gloria and Thank you Gloria’s Hair!”  After that day, no one ever teased Gloria about her hair again.  And she had plenty of friends to sit with at lunch.

That night, Gloria said a different set of prayers.  “Dear God, thank You for my long, strong hair.  Thank You for making me different.  And thank You for knowing what I need more than I do.”

From that day on, Gloria always remembered that the things that make us different also make us special.

A Tough Little Flower

Once upon a time, there was a flower named Lilly that lived in the forest.  It lived with other flowers under the canopy of trees.  Its life was very happy, especially because this flower and all of its relatives could talk to each other.  Each day was filled with conversations about the sunshine, the birds, their families, and how to grow the strongest petals or the best pollen.

And so it happened that in the middle of one of these conversations, Lilly received a letter (by the way, letters are carried by bluejays in Lilly’s neighborhood).  It was from her brother, who lived past the swamp and over the mountain.  He was getting married!  And Lilly needed to be there for the wedding (of course!).  Lilly began planning her trip immediately, since it would be a long and difficult journey for her.

She packed her bags with a few essential items–she wanted to travel light in order to make her passage over the tricky terrain as easy as possible.  In her bag she brought honey, a length of spider web, and a berry bowl.  She was pretty sure that was all she would need–hopefully!  It’s also important to mention that, although Lilly and the other flowers could talk, they could not move themselves or walk.  Each flower relied on bumblebees to help move them around.  Luckily flowers and bumblebees get along famously, and all a flower has to do is whistle and a bumblebee will rush over to help carry the flower somewhere.

Ready with her luggage, Lilly whistled for a bumblebee taxi and started on her journey.  The bumblebee carried her to the edge of her wood and started to carry her across the dreaded swamp when something jumped out of the water and gulped Lilly and the bumblebee down.  It was a huge fish, swimming in the swamp’s water!  The bumblebee and Lilly sat there in the belly of the fish, with no hope of getting out.  Lilly could feel the fish swimming through the water, traveling through the roots of trees and the wavy swamp grass.  As she began to feel cold, damp, and wilted, the fish jerked upward.  They were no longer in the water–the sound of water passing through the fish’s gills had stopped.  Where were they?  Lilly and the bumblebee crept towards the fish’s mouth and did their best to pry it open.  They glimpsed blue skies and clouds!  They were flying–but how?  And then Lilly spotted it–a claw wrapped around the head of the fish.  A bird had picked up the fish, without realizing they were already inside of it.

Reaching into her bag, Lilly counted her blessings that she had thought to pack some honey.  Taking it, she moved to the front of the fish and said, in a clear and loud voice, “Excuse me, but there are two passengers inside this fish.  If you place the fish back into the water, I will give you this precious honey, which I know birds rarely get to enjoy.”

It was clear the bird had heard Lilly, because soon two shining eyes framed in red feathers peered inside the fish’s mouth. A cardinal!  “Show me the honey,” he said.   Lilly pulled out the vial and held it up to catch what little light reached inside the fish.  Its beautiful amber color reflected itself in the bird’s eye.  “It’s a deal,” he said.  Lilly felt them switch directions and soon found herself on the ground, next to the water and the struggling fish, who had spit her and the bumble bee out when it landed on the ground with a Plop!

Looking up, Lilly spied the cardinal examining her.  “The honey, please.”  Looking at the fish as it struggled for air, Lilly pulled out the honey but, before handing it over, said “I asked for the fish to be returned to the water.”

“As you wish,” said the cardinal.  With his beak, the cardinal rolled the fish back into the murky swamp water.

“And here is your prize.  Thank you for your help,” said Lilly.  Turning to leave, she saw the cardinal settle into his tasty honey treat.  Moving back to her task, Lilly and the bumble bee proceeded forward once again.  Thankfully, they reached the edge of the swamp without any further incident.

At the edge of the swamp, though, Lilly noticed that her bumble bee looked nervous.  “What’s wrong, bumble?”  she asked.

“I’m scared,” the bee said.  “We almost didn’t make it out of that fish’s mouth.  I just want to go home.”

“But I can keep you safe,” Lilly said.

“I’m sorry, but I need to go.”

“I can’t move without you!” Lilly cried.  But it was useless.  The scared little bumblebee had already buzzed away towards home.

Lilly was stuck.  She stood there and wept into her leafy hands.  How would she ever move herself?  She didn’t know any of the bees or ladybugs in this strange wood.  Would they even help her if she asked?  Looking up to the sky, she saw only clouds and sunlight.  Nothing was flying around her and there was no one to talk to.

Turning to look into her bag, her tears began to fall into her berry bowl.  Seeing her reflection in the pool of tears, Lilly had an idea!  Setting out the bowl filled with the water, she crossed her leafy fingers and hoped that her idea would work.

You see, dragonflies love to take baths.  Anytime they see a puddle of water or a little stream, they can’t resist going down for a quick dip.  Lilly hoped that, if she waited long enough, a dragonfly would come to her berry bowl for a bath.  Then, all she’d have to do is lasso him with her spiderweb thread and ride him over the mountain.

A day and night passed, and Lilly began to lose hope.  She was growing lonelier and lonelier with no other flowers to talk to, and without any rain and with no bees to carry her to water she was also growing thirsty.  Finally, she reached out to  her berry bowl, having resorted to drink her tears as a way to put off her ever-increasing thirst.  As she hoisted the bowl in the air and poised it below her lips, she heard a distinctive buzzing and it was getting louder.  A dragonfly was coming!

She raised the bowl up to the sky with one arm, hoping the sun would catch the water and glisten into the eye of the dragonfly.  With the other, she readied herself with the length of spiderweb. ‘Here he comes,’ she thought, as she heard the dragonfly change directions and start to plummet down towards the berry bowl.

When she felt the dragonfly land on the bowl, she carefully and quietly began to swing the web with her other arm.  One loop, two loops, three loops and. . . throw!  The spiderweb caught in the fuzzy shell of the dragonfly’s tail and Lilly hoisted herself on top of the dragonfly.  Riding him like a horse, she attempted to strike a deal.

“Dragonfly, I did not want to trick you, but I must get to my brother’s wedding.  If you promise to take me to my brother’s home over the mountain, I will give you all of this water in my bowl for your bath.”

Considering this, the dragonfly  replied, “This is fair. I will take you over the mountain.”  And after he had enjoyed his bath, the dragonfly did carry Lilly over the mountain to her brother’s garden home.

At this point, you may think that Lilly’s adventure was over.  But, as she readied herself to knock on the door to her brother’s garden, she realized that she no longer had anything to give her brother for a wedding gift.  Everything she brought with her was now in the hands of birds and dragonflies.

Hearing a buzzing behind her, she thought that perhaps the dragonfly was returning to ask for another bath.  As she twisted around to tell him she was fresh out of tears but, if he waited a second she might have some more, Lilly saw that it was not the dragonfly.  It was the bumblebee who had deserted at the edge of the swamp.

“I am sorry that I left you there all alone with no way to help yourself,” he said, his head hung low in shamed.  “It was wrong of me to abandon you when it was my job to protect you.”

Lilly, never one to hold grudges, replied, “You were scared.  I understand why you left.  And I’m here now.  I’m not as helpless as I thought.”

“Still,” the bumble bee said, “I want to make things right.  I’ve brought you something that I found inside the fish while we were trapped and I hope it will help make amends for the way I treated you.”

Pulling something from behind his wings, Lilly saw a golden glow emerge.  Looking closer, she realized she had never seen anything like.  Round and ridge, with a copper-glow and strange imprints of faces and buildings on it, she felt it must be priceless.  Gasping as she took it into her hands, she looked at the bumblebee and thanked him.  Taking his wing and letting him guide her into her brother’s wedding, Lilly rejoiced that she had finally come to the end of her long journey and that now, thanks to her new bumblebee friend, she could give her brother a gift so perfect.  Opening the door to the garden, Lilly cradled the penny in one arm and smiled as she saw her brother’s face.