“Oh, shiny!” exclaimed 12-year-old Alice was running along the beach and spied something. She was an excitable, happy young lady and really did talk like that. She dug into the sand and pulled out an old, rusty brass lamp. Thinking her mother might like it (what else does a twelve year old do with a rusty lamp?), she dropped it in her backpack and brought it home.
She forgot about the lamp until later that night, when she was putting away her treasures. As she sat down and started to polish the lamp, the obligatory genie appeared and offered her one wish. (One? Well, yes. I’m actually making it convenient for telling the story, but we can say it was a beginner genie who wasn’t up to three yet, or she wasted the first two on a swimming pool and a new Wii. But let’s get on with the story.)
Alice thought long and hard what her wish would be. She knew with just one chance, it had to be good. Since Alice really was selfless and had a kind heart, her wish would certainly show it. She agonized for several days over what to do. Finally, she summoned the genie for her wish.
“I wish,” she said, “that I could have a magic wand to make pain and suffering disappear.” As the genie started to object, she shushed him and assured him that that was her final answer.
The genie explained that the wand would only work in her hands, nobody else could use it, and that she could only use it for others. “So be it,” said Alice, “I am certain that’s what I want.”
The genie disappeared in a poof of smoke, and there, on the floor, was a lovely, shiny, plastic stick. It wasn’t real gold. In fact, it looked like it came out of a Dollar Store, but it was, indeed, a wand of sorts. Alice couldn’t wait to try it out. But she and her family were all healthy, so the trial would have to wait.
Alice carefully packed her little wand in her schoolbag the next day and went running off to school. On the way, she found a cat that had just caught a chipmunk. She rescued the chipmunk, who had a broken leg and was bleeding from several cuts. She touched it with her wand, and it scampered merrily away. The cat, of course, was not so merry. But when Alice tapped the cat with her wand, she also scampered away, no longer hungry.
As time went on, Alice did her best to keep the wand and its powers a secret. There were times that adults were left scratching their head at “miraculous” recoveries. Sometimes, she lost or misplaced it for a time, but she always found it. Nobody in her family was sick for more than a very short time, but since nobody really believed in magic, they didn’t suspect a thing.
Alice grew into a lovely young lady, and eventually had a family of her own. Of course, by now, more and more people were realizing something was a bit strange. Her family and friends quit aging, all except poor Alice. They had no idea that it was all due to the magic wand.
As time went on it became more difficult to conceal the now battered piece of plastic. Eventually, she told her husband of its powers. He didn’t believe her, but after several demonstrations, he realized she was right. He kept her secret, but occasionally discussed it with her.
Her children also suspected something and listed in on conversations between her parents. Of course, soon the word was out. Realizing she could really do some good now, she took the marvelous wand into hospitals, healing everyone in sight. She went to psych wards, and nursing homes. Even within prisons, she was able to heal the prisoners of their hate and evil thinking. They were released, never to relapse! What a wonderful wand! What a wonderful world? As long as Alice and her wand were around, there was no sickness.
As word of the wonderful wand grew, she felt more and more responsible for using it as much as possible, for she couldn’t bear the thought of anyone being sick. Her husband, now well into his eighties, was as healthy as a thirty year old. She, however, felt the affects of age, because the wand didn’t work on her. Doctors had gone out of business since they didn’t have any patients, and there was nobody to treat the ills that she developed as she aged. Indeed, she was the only one aging. Death in her village and the surrounding villages was practically non-existent, because she was able to resurrect and heal even the sickest with her wand. They came fromfar away. If there was an accident and she didn’t get there in time to heal them, the bereaved family would yell at her and tell her how worthless she was. People waited in long lines for days just to see her and be healed. She was so tired. She felt guilty when she was sick or even taking a small break. She was healing people from early morning to the wee hours of the night. Time had taken quite a toll on her frail body.
Her children were off, enjoying lives of their own, and she didn’t have time to see them or her grandchildren. Her husband loved her dearly, but had little in common with her since she was so old and frail compared to him. Her parents and grandparents were all acting like they were 30 as well. There was little they could do together and little time to do it. She only saw her family when they were sick, and then just for a minute.
One day, two teenage boys were in line, waiting for her help. They had a fight when they got to the front of the line, each wanting to be first for the touch of her magic wand. Before she could touch them to remove the hate, they both grabbed at her. The wand flew out of her hands and as the two boys grabbed it at the same time, they snapped it in two. The magic was gone. Alice’s life became a blur.
Alice found herself alone on the beach once more, a rusty old lamp in her hand. Her shriveled body was again that of a ten year old. But she had the wisdom of her eighty-five years.
She watched the waves and thought for a long, long time. She thought of all of the pain and suffering she had cured. She thought of her parents, her husband, her children, none of whom ever aged past thirty. She thought of how she had changed the world. As a girl growing up, it seemed her mother was always cooking something for a sick friend, or helping the little old lady down the street with the laundry. Her father mowed the neighbor’s lawns and shoveled their driveways. They had spent their lives helping the less fortunately.
But with the wand, there was no need for that. People could do for themselves. The give and take of charity and had disappeared, except for the charity that she did for others with the wand. People helped each other with birthday parties and weddings, had parties and fun together, but nobody every worried about sickness and death. And without opportunities to really care about others, the people she knew had grown hard and self-centered. Deep down, she realized that with all the effort and sacrifice that she had put into caring for others, the world was the worse for it.
Had it all been a dream? How could she be younger than her children? She rubbed the lamp and the genie appeared. No, it wasn’t a dream, but she had been given a second chance. Time had reversed itself. She hadn’t met her husband yet and she still had one wish, but no wand. What would it be?
Alice, now the wiser, was overcome with confusion. She started crying. Where had she gone wrong? Hadn’t she made the most selfless wish possible?
The genie put his hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay,” he comforted her. “I’ve never heard of such a heartfelt wish. But there must be balance in all things, including sickness and health. Sometimes, the sick are put here for the benefit of the healthy, to learn charity. There will come a time in the next life, where there is no sickness. But this is a life of learning and growing, and now is not that time. I’m proud of you for your wish. I didn’t expect a ten year old to understand any better.”
Alice smiled. The reality of her place in the world was more real, now that she had lived 85 years. And besides, she still had one wish. What could it be?
“I wish,” she said, “that I can always see and try to meet the needs of those I know around me. That I will have the means and health and wisdom to make the world a better place. And that when this life is over, I can pass peacefully into the next.”
The genie smiled now. “Yes, Alice. But really, you don’t need a genie for that. Just hard work and a little luck.” And he and the lamp disappeared.
Alice lived out a full, wonderful, life. People admired her wisdom and caring. And she and those around her were, indeed, happy, though not always healthy. Sometimes she missed her little wand, but the freedom she felt in being able to really pitch in and help overcame the loss quickly.
She met the man of her dreams, married, had children, heartaches, and losses, and always knew that this was part of the plan. All is well. And when she was very old, she lay down on her bed one night and peacefully passed into the next life.