Mending the Sky
A simple story about the value of seeing opportunity around us. Adapted from the Chinese legend Nüwa Mends the Heavens.
A long, long time ago the world was very new. In fact, there were a few things that weren't quite finished yet.
One of them was the sky.
During the day, the sky was bright and blue. But at night, the sky was as black as coal. And everything was very, very dark.
One sunny summer morning in a small village by the woods, some children went out to play. They were running around having fun when suddenly - plop - a squishy blue thing fell from the sky. Then another - plop - and more - plop, plop, plop - squishy blue things were falling everywhere.
The children looked up. What do you think they saw?
“Yikes!” they cried. Pieces of the sky were falling to the ground, and leaving behind holes where they had been.
Out of the holes oozed thick black clouds, which were turning the sky from bright and blue like the day, to dark and black like the night.
As this went on for several days, the sky became darker and darker each day.
And soon the crops in the village gardens began to wilt from lack of sunlight.
Then the cows in the barns stopped giving milk for they were too sleepy.
And the chickens in the chicken coops stopped laying eggs for they had no corn to eat.
As you might imagine, everyone in the village was rather upset, and nobody quite knew what to do.
“What are we to do?” they asked each other.
Well, in those days, when anyone had an important question, they went to see the very, very old woman who lived by the river. Her name was Cora.
So the children ran through the village, and down to the river, and they rushed to Cora's house, and they banged on her door, and they shouted, “Cora, Cora, the sky is falling down and leaving holes in the sky!”
Cora came to the door.
“Black clouds are oozing out of the holes and the sky is getting darker and darker,” said the children. “The crops are wilting in the fields, the cows have stopped giving milk, and the chickens will lay no eggs! What are we to do?”
Cora looked up at the sky. She looked into the fields. She peeked into the cow barns. She glanced under the chickens in the chicken coop.
Then she folded her arms and she thought for a moment.
Finally she looked at the children and she said, “Well now, why don't you gather all the pieces of the sky that have fallen and bring them to me. I will mend the sky.”
“Yippee” sang the children. And they ran off to find the pieces of the sky.
Although many pieces of the sky were hidden, the children were determined to gather all the pieces of the sky they could find. “Won't you help us?” they asked the villagers.
“Yes, we must all search for pieces of the sky!” proclaimed the Mayor.
So everyone began to hunt, and search, and discover.
The found pieces of the sky wherever they looked.
The farmer found some in the cornfield.
The baker found some in the well.
The builder found some in the trees.
The blacksmith found some in his chimney.
The fiddler even found some under his fiddle case.
Then the villagers and the children carried all the pieces to Cora in her house by the river.
Cora spread all the pieces on the ground in front of her, and began to count them. “One...two...three...” She counted for hours. “Eighty-five...eighty-six...” she counted for days... “two hundred and nine...two hundred and ten...”
Finally, Cora had counted them all. Then she looked up at the sky and she began to count the holes where the pieces had fallen out.
It took a long time, but she counted them all.
When she had counted all the pieces and all the holes, Cora looked at the sky getting darker and darker.
Then she looked at the villagers who gazed at her with great worry on their faces.
And she looked at the children whose eyes shown with eagerness and hope.
“I'm afraid there are many pieces missing,” she told them.
“But we gathered every piece we found for miles around!” declared the Mayor.
“We searched up high and we looked down low!” said the children.
“Maybe they sank to the bottom of the sea,” said Cora.
“I pulled out all I could,” said the fisherman, holding up his net.
“We will need something else to fill all the holes,” said Cora.
Cora looked around. “What can we use?” she said. She looked at the slender blades of grass. “No that won't work.” She looked at the trees, tall and green. “No those won't work either.”
She picked up a rock that lay at her feet. “Too heavy,” she frowned.
“Hmmmm,” said Cora, “this will take some thinking and some more looking around.”
The children began to cry “But the days will get darker and darker, and soon we will have no more milk and no more eggs!”
“I promise you,” she told the children, “When you wake up tomorrow morning, the sky will be blue again. Now leave it to me.”
The children went home and went to sleep, and they dreamed about what the next day would look like when they awoke.
But one boy stayed behind. His name was Lee, and he was a curious fellow who loved to learn.
While Cora was thinking and looking around for just the right thing to mend the sky, Lee was thinking and looking around too.
While Lee was looking around, he happened to look at the river, there he saw that a bit of sunlight still left had cast a sparkle on the water.
Lee looked at the sunlight sparkling, and he said to himself “There must be a way to mend the sky, if I could only see it.”
Suddenly he smiled a big smile and said to himself “I've got it. I know what Cora can use to mend the sky!”
And he ran up to Cora to share with her what he had discovered.
Cora listened to Lee, and she looked at the river, and she looked at the sky, and she too smiled a big smile.
“Will you help me?” she asked Lee.
“Yes I will,” said Lee.
And they set to work mending the sky.
The next morning, the children and the villagers ran outside and looked at the sky. It was blue again and the sun was shining bright!
The dark clouds had vanished and they couldn't see any holes. The children ran to Cora's house. “The sky is blue again!” they shouted. “The sun is shining bright. And the crops in the fields will soon be healthy again.”
“And the cows are awake and mooing to give their milk!”
“And the chickens are clucking and wanting to lay eggs!”
“What did you use to mend the sky? Tell us!”
But Cora just smiled. “Be patient my friends,” she told them. “You will see.”
So the children ran off to play and sing songs about the clear blue sky. And the villagers went off to tend the crops, and milk the cows, and gather the eggs.
But that night, something unusual happened.
One of the children, a little girl named Ella, was getting ready to go to sleep. She was wondering how Cora and Lee had mended the sky, and she decided to look up at it one more time.
And when she looked out her window, she couldn't believe her eyes. The night sky wasn't black and dark any more. And she saw what Cora and Lee had used to fill the holes.
And if you go outside on a clear night, and you look up, you too can see how they did it.
And that is how it happens to this day. When the skies become as dark as the night, a little determination, and bit of imagination, and plenty of cooperation can make the stars shine bright in your world too.