The Gift and the Greenhouse : A Fable

A fable I use for premarital counselling.

Hand in hand, a newly married couple walked through the woods on a beautiful spring morning. The sunlight danced in the ripples of a small brook and flirted with the trailing green veil of a weeping willow.  At the foot of the tree, the couple found a small abush with bright red flowers, basking in a shaft of sunlight.  Out of love for his companion, the young man plucked a flower and gently tucked it into her hair.  Then they sat down to enjoy the warmth of the day and the beauty of the forest

While they were sitting, an old woman walked down the path to stand before them. She wore a long jade colored dress with a light floral shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Her long brown hair; streaked with strands of gray, was gathered in a loose pony tail that spilled down her neck to the small of her back. From beneath a wide-brimmed floppy hat, her bright green eyes sparkled with a love and wisdom born of commonplace joys.

“Greetings, young ones!” she said.  “I see you’ve found the most precious plant in my forest. Do you like it?”

“Very much!” said the young woman.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” the young man added.

“Then I will give it to you as my wedding gift,” said the old woman.  “But you must promise to take good care of it.  Away from this forest the plant is very delicate, so you must agree to build a greenhouse to shelter it.”

“We give you our promise,” the couple said.

The old woman took a shovel and carefully dug the bush from the ground.  Wrapping its roots in a burlap bag soaked with water from the stream, she handed the plant to the couple, gave them her blessing and walked back into the woods. 

When they returned home, they built a greenhouse to shelter their gift.  Within the fragile safety of the glass walls, the plant thrived.  

In the spring and summer, it was covered with hundreds of bright red flowers. Their fragrance filled the house with joy during the day, and gifted them with peace and contentment at night.  In the fall it produced a wonderful red fruit that was both sweet and nourishing.  They feasted on the fruit, letting its juicy richness run down their chins as they laughed and fed each other.  In the winter they brewed a tea with the plant’s leaves and used it to bring healing for whatever illness they suffered.

The couple did not keep their gift to themselves.  When a friend was sad, they brought a bouquet of flowers knowing that the scent would comfort and bless her.  They fed their children with the fruit and shared it with hungry beggars who often came to their door.  They took packets of the tea to those who were sick so they could share in its healing. 

With the passing of time, however, the couple began to neglect the greenhouse.  They were thankful for the gift they had received, but they were also busy with so many other things. The unwashed windows grew dirty and gray. The caulking dried out and some of the windowpanes were broken, allowing the cold winter air to seep into the greenhouse.  Although the bush still grew, it did not flourish as it once had.

Then, one summer afternoon, disaster struck.  A fierce thunderstorm sent hailstones crashing through the fragile glass.  The greenhouse was shattered, broken shards of glass were scattered everywhere, and the plant was stripped of its foliage. 

The couple stood in the wreckage of the greenhouse and looked at each other with tears in their eyes.  Now that they were old, did they have the strength and energy to rebuild?

“Do you remember the first time our son, Josh, tasted the fruit of the wise woman’s gift?” the woman said.  “He was 14 months old.  I’ll never forget the delighted look on his face and the grin on yours!”

“Do you remember the time we took the healing tea to my mother?” he said.  “She was so grateful.”

“Do you remember the day we received the plant from the old woman of the forest?” she whispered.

“Yes, I do,” he replied, “and do you remember the promise we made?”

“We must rebuild,” they said together.

Over the next few weeks, they cleared the debris and put up a new greenhouse.  They repotted the torn plant, watering it with their tears and the blood they had shed from picking up broken shards of glass.  From that day on, they washed the windows ever week and checked regularly for loose caulk and broken panes. Never again would they neglect the greenhouse.

With the passing of time, the gift flourished once more.  The fragrance of it blossoms filled their home once again with peace, joy and contentment.  They used the leaves to make a poultice to cure their own cuts and shared it with others who had been hurt by the thunderstorm.

Oddly, however, the fruit had changed.  It wasn’t quite as juicy as it had once been, but somehow it tasted richer and deeper.  It was even more satisfying to both body and soul. 

“Perhaps,” the couple said to each other, “it’s because we watered the plant with our own tears and blood.  Our sorrow has given the fruit a new richness.”

© 1995 and September 27, 2019 by Rev. Michael A. Weber.
For permission to reprint please contact the author at

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