by Joy Kingsbury-Aitken
A Children’s Story for Palm Sunday
In a small village like Bethphage the purchase of a donkey was a big event. Each harvest season old Caleb had gathered in the nuts from the almond tree that grew beside the doorway of his one room dwelling. For almost a decade he had put a few of the coins earned from the sale of these almonds into a clay money jar, which he had kept hidden out of sight of nosey tax collectors and inquisitive neighbours, until he had enough money saved to buy a donkey. His purchase was a young animal, a colt only just independent of its mother. The donkey appeared to have a placid temperament, seemingly unconcerned by all the attention it was generating. The village children in particular were excited by the donkey’s arrival in their midst. They chattered noisily as they gathered around the creature, patting its back, scratching behind its ears, and poking handfuls of grass towards it, which the donkey obligingly munched upon. Their excitement was mirrored by old Caleb’s, although he didn’t show it so audibly. At long last he would not need to struggle up the hillside, bent double by the weight of the bundle of willow sticks gathered from the valley floor, which he needed to carry up to Bethphage to fuel his cooking fire. In fact the donkey would be able to carry many more sticks than he could manage, so he would not need to go down into the valley and climb back up to his home so often. Then when the olives were harvested, he would not have to shoulder the baskets of ripe fruit to take to the oil press at Gethsemane, nor personally carry the jars of oil to the market place from there. The donkey was going to make a huge difference in his life. Living was going to become so much easier.