Sabrina was nine summers old when she met the old woman. To be real honest, she hadn’t even noticed her at first as the woman was sitting under a large tree, eating an orange. Sabrina had smelt the fruit from a long way away.
The last thing her grandmother had told her was not to speak to strangers - but Sabrina was a young girl who liked meeting new folks.
“Sit,” said the old woman. “Sit by me and have some orange.”
And that is exactly what Sabrina did. The old woman gave her some segments of the orange, and they both sat in the cool shade, under the sycamore tree.
When they were all finished, the old woman asked what Sabrina would like in all the world. Without hesitating too much, Sabrina said to make everyone she knew happy.
“Give it a try,” said the old woman, and one day we will meet under this tree and I will ask you about your life.
Sabrina was about to ask another question but as she turned the old woman had vanished – didn’t they always in these stories?
So the next day, she set out to make everyone she knew happy. She cooked and cleaned, and helped and scraped and painted and carried and washed and cut. It seemed that people were only happy when you were doing something for them – but as they all seemed happy, that made Sabrina content.
One day, in the following Spring, Sabrina met the old woman under the tree. This time they shared a pear.
“How have you got on?” The woman asked Sabrina, and she told her what I have told you.
“Now I want you to make yourself happy,” the old woman told her.
“How do I do that?” Asked the girl.
“By doing only what you feel is right in your heart and head – no more, no less. We will meet again,” said the old woman.
The following day, Sabrina started to do what only made her happy. She stopped cutting, and cleaning and painting and helping so much and found more time for her own needs and her own heart. The downside was that people started to ignore her , or talk about her and whisper about how she had gotten so selfish.
“She was once a nice girl,” Sabrina would hear them whisper. “Gone to the dark side,” said another.
One unexpected day, Sabrina met the old woman for the last time and Sabrina – while sharing an apple – told the old woman how making herself happy had worked out.
“You have found out the truth. You cannot make the world happy. There are those who have turned their backs on you, but they were only using you for their selfish needs. People are lazy, and stupid, and wasteful. They could not see how much in your heart you wanted to help them. Sabrina, you must make yourself happy, regardless of who it upsets. And when you are truly happy, there are those who you will make genuinely happy. They will see the happiness in your eyes and heart and that will be enough for them. The rest are not your responsibility and they will only find another soul to pester and torment. Be glad of who you are.”
And that is what Sabrina did for the rest of her life. She never saw the old woman again but sometimes she would sit under the sycamore tree and eat an orange and smile that she had, at least, made one person happy.
bobby stevenson 2018