The Children's Blessing

By Virginia Roderick

On the slope of a hill, beneath silvery olives, a group was gathered about the young stranger. He had entered the village only that morning, seeking the companionship of such Nazarenes as might be there. And they had brought him out here in the open to receive his message. But though he carried them greetings, and news from the distant groups of the Christ's followers, it was plain that he had not been sent to them on a mission.

They waited until he should be ready to explain his quest.

"You did not see Him, then?"

Into the young man's eyes there came a great, yearning sadness. "No," he answered. "But you," he asked eagerly, "did none of you see Him?"

They shook their heads, all of them.

"We were too far away," one murmured.

"But I had for spiritual father one who had seen Him," the traveler offered, his face lighting. "You know how He blessed a company of little children? How He put His hands upon them?" He paused and they nodded silently. "My teacher was one of those children," he said, his dark eyes aglow with reverent pride.

A quick glance flashed about the group; but no one spoke and the traveler went on, the radiance of his face blotted out again in sadness. "It is because he is gone that I am a wanderer now. I was always with him, and we went about together, preaching the Kingdom. It was all so clear to my teacher because he had seen Him. He told me of His wonderful look."

They fell silent, brooding and thoughtful.

Then one asked: "What was it like—the blessing He gave your teacher? Did he gain goods and store?"

The young traveler's eyes opened in amazement. "Why no! How could that be? My teacher was like Him," he explained simply.

Again the quick look passed about the circle. At last one spoke, slowly: "There is a man here in the village who was also blessed with the children."

The young traveler started up joyously. "Take me to him," he entreated. "Let me talk with him; that is what I have come here seeking—another teacher."

"Nay, friend—" began one; but another hurriedly whispered: "Let us not tell him. Perhaps he can help." And so the first speaker finished: "I fear you will not find him like your teacher, but you shall go; it is only a step."

And they guided him, all but impatient, to a mean hovel just within the town. There they left him.

It was a man with a dark, bitter face that answered his knock. "May I speak with Nemuel?" the stranger asked courteously.

"I am Nemuel," growled the man curtly.

"But I mean Nemuel who was one of the children that Jesus blessed," persisted the young traveler, his face softly alight as the name passed his lips.

"Come in; I am the man." He straightened proudly. "I was a child seven years old when I saw Him——"

He stopped, for the young stranger, pale and gasping, broke in: "You saw Him! He touched you! You have seen His face, and yet your own—forgive me, friend. But my master was also one of the children blessed by the Christ, and he was … different." He hesitated, still looking at the somber face in puzzled distress.

The man caught the young stranger's arm. "You knew another of those He blessed? Tell me, did he have great wealth, palaces, honors? Did he wait long? Did the blessing tarry so long in the fulfilment as with me?"

The young stranger shook his head in deep bewilderment. "I do not understand. No, he had no wealth, no palaces, no honors. He followed the Christ. He was blessed by His spirit. Why, how could one want goods and honors when one had seen His wonderful smile, when His arms—" He broke off, gazing at his host in appalled incomprehension.

Nemuel's dark face grew darker, more bitter. "Then there is no blessing, after all," he said slowly. "I have waited, believing, trusting. I have kept my life clean. I have kept myself holy—away from those He had not touched—" The stranger drew a quick breath and his eyes softened with pity. "I have never forgotten that I was blessed above others. And now there is no blessing." And he covered his face with his hands.

There was a silence and then the young stranger spoke very gently: "The blessing my master taught me, was for all children—for all childlike faith and trust and purity. It was a sanctification of the child spirit."

Nemuel had lifted his head and was listening, his eyes fastened wonderingly on the stranger's face.

"And it was not a blessing to be wrapped up in a napkin. It was not one to bring you good fortune, as if it had been a sorcerer's charm. It was a blessing for you to take and to make—to use it—to give it to others. Through you He blessed all children…. And yet—" the stranger's voice deepened—"yet there was something special too."

"What was it?" Nemuel breathed.

The stranger bent on him a gaze full of yearning. "Have you not remembered His face?" he asked. "His wonderful look—just for you?" There was a pleading note of reproach in his voice as he leaned toward Nemuel, but his face was all love and tenderness.

Nemuel began to shake his head slowly, still fixing the stranger with his gaze.

"No," he confessed. "I haven't been able to remember—not for years. At first I did. Afterward I knew His face was wonderful, but I could not see it. But now—now I begin to remember——"

The young stranger waited for the halting words, his face lighting softly with a holy hope and joy.

"Why, your face—" Nemuel still hesitated, groping, and then suddenly his voice rang out in triumph, and memory dawned clearly in his eyes—"why, your face—is—like—His! Oh, I do remember!—and—I begin to understand."