Once upon a time a ten-year old girl named Maple lived in a place called Funkville. Maple had a natural curiosity most girls have at this age. Her curiosity was stifled; however, due to the conservative nature of Funkville, and its many rules. Most of the adults were grumpy. Hard work was valued and acquiring material things cherished. It had been this way for so long that it was an accepted way of life.

Growing up Maple thought happiness came from being able to have a bigger house or nicer car than your neighbour, or from winning achievement awards at school. Many of the kids in this community felt sad or anxious, believing they were not as worthy as those who could outperform them in academics or athletics.

Funkville was a gloomy kind of place. Pleasure from acquiring new and more things was short lived. Many of the people tried to find solace by going to church, but this did little to improve the negative atmosphere of this little town. The people believed in a God who would either punish them or reward them by sending them to heaven or hell after their death.

One day Maple went with her mother to pick some berries in the woods a short distance from town. Eventually, Maple had wandered a distance a way from her mother and heard something strange that sounded like singing. She walked towards the sound and found an older woman who was gathering plants into a basket. When the woman saw Maple she gave a big smile and said ‘Hello’. Maple asked what the woman was doing, and the woman explained she was gathering herbs to take back to her home nearby. Maple asked the woman why she was singing and the woman replied it was because she felt happy being surrounded by so much beauty she felt compelled to sing out of sheer joy.

‘Beauty?’ Maple asked, being curious. The woman pointed out the colours and scents of the flowers, the birds playing in the trees, and the butterflies with their colourful wings. Up to this point no one had ever encouraged Maple to see the world as a place of beauty. Life had only two priorities, work and achievement. Maple heard her mother calling and knew it was time to leave.

Maple continued to think about the woman in the woods, and would sneak off on her bike to visit the woman as often as she could. From these visits Maple developed gratitude for the joy she felt in her heart as she soaked up the beauty around her. Over time, Maple came to believe life did not need to be complicated with a lot of expectations or material things. Eventually, Maple left the little town of Funkville and came to understand heaven was not something outside of herself that had to be achieved, but rather it was in the peace she felt in her heart brought on by the harmony and joy in the simple things.

Written by: Arlene Burke via Creative Writing Bootcamp

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