Shannon wiggled her toes into the warm sand. Underneath the surface the sand was moist and cool and tickly between her toes. She leaned back against the edge of the sandbox, soaking up the sun, pretending her toes were a giant sieve as she filtered precious jewels from tons of ancient diggings. The large jewels she found were carefully lifted to the side like a conveyer belt on top of her foot and placed in a bucket, while the tiny pieces were cast off and allowed to fall to the ground or blow away like chaff.
She had just uncovered an imaginary enormous ruby when it was knocked off the top of her foot and flung across the walkway. Shannon sat up quickly and looked up as the shadow of a bigger girl fell across her face. Kris laughed mockingly at her.
“Daydreaming again, lazy bones? Don’t you have anything better to do?” Kris challenged her.
Shannon answered softly, “I finished my afternoon chores and Mom said I could play for a little before dinner.”
“And what about your schoolwork? You didn’t do very well in spelling last week,” scolded Kris. She thoroughly enjoyed teasing her younger neighbor and could always find something to make fun of. Her voice was harsh and intimidating.
Shannon lowered her head and answered slowly. “I studied harder this week and only missed one work on today’s test.”
“Well, hoop-dee-do. I’m soooo impressed! I didn’t miss any,” bragged Kris.
Shannon looked past her accuser and thought of how much time her mother had spent with her each day this week helping her review the words. She remembered the pleased smile and the hug her mother gave her when she told how well she had done on the test. Suddenly, her sense of accomplishment was gone. Under the piercing glare of the other girl, she felt small and confused.
“Well, Miss Smarty, which word did you miss –C-A-T?” and she kicked sand at Shannon’s tabby cat which had been rolling in the grass nearby. The cat ran off into the bushes to lick her paws.
“No, I missed awesome,” said Shannon.
“Oh, oh you’re so awesomely brilliant,” mocked Kris.
Shannon sighed. She and Kris had never been able to play together without these word battles. Somehow Kris could turn any situation into a convenient opportunity to ridicule her. Being fairly close in age, they should have been able to have tea parties on the porch, picnics in the tree house and explorations in the sandbox, but Kris never played like the other girls their age. She played with words – but not kindly. Because there weren’t any other girls in the neighborhood, Shannon ended up being the target of Kris’s verbal barrage all too often.
Her thoughts were interrupted by her mother’s gentle voice, “Dinnertime. Come in please. Hello, Kris, how are you tonight?”
Kris muttered, “Hello Mrs. Barnes,” and ran toward her own house. As Shannon watched her go, Kris seemed much smaller and less intimidating. She wished that somehow they could be friends.
Later that evening she asked her mother about Kris. Her mother was well aware of their frequent conflict and how Shannon struggled to get along with her neighbor.
Her mother surprised Shannon with a simple story.
The goldsmith in the land of Rugoldia had been given the assignment of making a new crown for the king. He was to gather the purest, brightest and most precious jewels from the kingdom. The gold and silver would be refined and purified to perfection. The gems would be beautifully and artistically positioned to bring honor and glory to the sovereign king, and to cause all who saw it to bow in reverence.
After working many long months perfecting his creation, at last the jeweler was ready to present it to the ruler.
The king eagerly anticipated the unveiling of his new crown. No expense had mattered, no time limits had been given to hinder its excellence. His expectations were for the largest, shiniest, most expensive creation ever. The goldsmith stood before him with outstretched arms, the gift covered in velvet.
Slowly, the king removed the velvet wrapping. His mouth fell open with a gasp of astonishment. Befuddled, the king looked angrily at the jeweler. “How – how- could you – what a waste!”
The goldsmith, however, was not surprised at the reaction. Respectfully he replied, “Your highness, hold it up to the light.”
Again, the king gasped as the tiny jewels caught the light and reflected a beautiful glow onto his face. The longer the king looked into the crown, the more amazed he became. Instead of the expected massive, enormous crown, he was gazing at an intricate, filigreed, delicately engraved piece of art. The golden strands were twisted, woven and braided, which left open spaces ornamented with tiny jewels: rubies, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires – none larger than a star in the night sky.
He held his breath as he realized the tiny diamonds spelled, “KING OF RUGOLDIA,” and inlaid into the gold were strands of silver fiber spelling the words, “LOVE, KINDNESS, HOPE.” Relief designs depicted wheat, grapes, an open book, the sun, honeybees and milk. With wide eyes he looked at the goldsmith.
“Your honor,” the goldsmith said quietly, “Your kindness and the loving concern you demonstrate to the people of your kingdom give us hope and courage. We are grateful and honored to be your servants. This crown is a representation of the nurture, fruitfulness, wisdom, integrity and prosperity of your realm. Your highness, the value of your kingdom is not in an expensive crown, but in the kindness and justice of your reign. Your gentleness has made us great.”
Humbled and honored, the king generously rewarded the goldsmith for his painstakingly beautiful artwork and sensitivity.
“So you see, Shannon,” said her mother, “Your kindness, patience and forgiveness will help you become friends with Kris. Maybe it won’t happen immediately, but with hope and confidence you must be her friend.” Gladly, Shannon hugged her mother and headed off to bed.
The next afternoon, Shannon played in the sandbox, watching, anticipating the arrival of Kris.
Calling to her cheerfully, Shannon said, “Kris, do you know about the world’s most valuable jewel? I’m digging for one!”
“Right, like you’re going to find anything valuable in that junky sandbox,” snapped Kris.
Laughing, Shannon looked mysteriously at Kris. “If you help me look, I promise you we’ll find it.”
Kris approached the sandbox. “O.K. Miss Smarty, what do I have to do?”
“Come, sit down here. Dig carefully with your toes through the sand.”
Kris slipped off her sandals and dutifully dug her toes in the sand. There was nothing there except the cool sand. Shannon glanced at her out of the corner of her eye, and saw her diligently digging deeper and deeper, tunneling her feet under the sand. Kris seemed to think the sand did feel good on her bare feet.
At the same instant both girls exclaimed, “I found something!” Laughing, they compared the little rocks they’d discovered. Kris’s had sparkles of quartz in it. Shannon’s had streaks of red.
“Maybe it’s a ruby,” she said with hushed awe in her voice.
Kris almost made a snide remark, but seemed to change her mind, and said instead, “Mine must be diamonds! Let’s keep looking.”
After a few more little discoveries, Shannon looked sheepishly at Kris. “I didn’t tell you what precious jewel we are really looking for, did I?”
“No, you didn’t,” responded Kris.
“Well, it is in this sandbox right now,” smiled Shannon. “A friendship is a very valuable and precious jewel.”
Kris looked down at the sand, the meaning of what Shannon said sinking in. After a few moments, she grinned and said, “Hey! Tomorrow, let’s dig for ancient bones!”