Many of us have read any number of fairy tales to children, our grandchildren, and ourselves. One that I took to heart as a child was the story of the Goose who laid golden eggs. There are countless versions of the story but it always ends up that someone acquires or steals the goose and then, out of avarice, kills it to acquire all the gold at once. Once slaughtered they find the goose is as any other goose. One lesson, among many, that we then learn from this story is that greed can destroy the thing that most benefits a person. A good lesson.
One of the things that Jesus does, however, is turn such lessons on their heads. And I, in turn, enjoy finding others that do the same to teach us something new. And so I was reminded of the poem The Goose* by Muriel Spark:
Do you want to know why I am alive today?
I will tell you.
Early on, during the food-shortage,
Some of us were miraculously presented
Each with a goose that laid a golden egg.
Myself, I killed the cackling thing and I ate it.
Alas, many and many of the other recipients
Died of gold-dust poisoning.
When one is dying of hunger, golden eggs are of no use, we learn in this somewhat upsetting poem.
One of the responses of many people to the ongoing pandemic has been to snatch up as much of what they perceive as necessary as possible—from toilet paper to face masks. And now, those who are most in need of some of these—hospitals and clinics for instance—cannot get what they need.
When what we need is solidarity to get supplies to those who need them most, a garage full of hand sanitizer, face masks, and toilet paper will not keep us alive. But, those things can keep other people alive. Spark’s poem The Goose problematizes the story of the Golden Goose. But it also teaches us another deep truth. What is useful and valuable depends on the times in which we live. And our human tendency to horde something that makes us feel safe is very different from doing that which may actually save life.
I don’t imagine many of you reading this are sitting on a surfeit of supplies. But when times feel anxious and generosity feels like too much of a sacrifice, that is when it is most useful; both to the giver and he receiver.
So reach out today to give someone a call who needs it. And receive that call if that person is you. Make that donation that feels uncomfortable, lest we die “of gold-dust poisoning.”
You are in my prayers!
Rev. Zachary Wilson
*Muriel Spark, “The Goose” from All the Poems of Muriel Spark © 1953-1997, by Muriel Spark