Selfish Chief

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by Peter van Gorder

Characters:

Chief

Servant – Munaku

Old Blind Man

Wise Man – Mogezhi

Villagers various ages

 

Costumes:

African Chief

African villagers and servant

Old blind man

Wise man – like Shaman

 

Props:

Shovel

Cane

Begging cup

Sunglasses

 

Sign 1

“No one shall drink from this well except for my family.

 If anyone else dare to drink from these waters, they shall die.”

 

Sign 2              “Well for village use only at night.”

Sign 3

                        “Come, whoever is thirsty, drink of these waters freely.”

Hammer

Bucket

Vessels for Villagers to carry water in

Paintbrush

 

SFX:

Pre-recorded track.

Water flowing (well) on separate track

 

Time : 6 minutes

       Level of Difficulty:   Medium   Class V – 1 of 2 stories ( 10 year olds )

Staging:

Well  – circular

Old building flat

Water – could use plastic sheets to look like water.  For audience interaction you could have some real water that you throw out over the audience.

 

Staging Notes: As you rehearse this story, you may find that some parts need to be given more time. Make note of those parts and additional time can be included in the track to help it flow smoothly with the live action. Try though to tighten the time in exits and entrances and see if you can still act out the story well without any additional time inserted.

 Signs could be projected on the screen as well to emphasize their message.

Villagers stagger across the stage weak from thirst. One turns over his skin bag and twists it to get the last drop. Another sees a flower but it wilts in his hand. Another Villager holds up some dust that falls from his hand and is carried by the wind.  Exit Villagers. Enter king and servant (Munaku).  The King orders his servant to start digging and he does.

StoryTeller:  Once upon a time there was a village in Africa.  The chief was a very selfish chief who one day found water and dug himself a well.

Chief:  Well, at last my well is finished.  Now I will post my sign. Munaku, bring my hammer and put it up immediately.

Munaku:  Yes, your majesty.  (The Servant hammers a sign up over the well.)

StoryTeller:  The servant hammered up a wooden sign over the well which read:

“No one shall drink from this well except for my family.

 If anyone else dare to drink from these waters, they shall die.”

 

Chief:  Excellent. Now I will have all the water I need.

(An old blind man stumbles onto the stage holding out his cup and tapping with his cane. He bumps into the King and the Servant.)

StoryTeller:  Just then an old man stumbled down the path tapping his stick and bumped into the chief.  He held out his cup and cried:

Old Man:  Water, water,…Please may I have some water?

Chief:  Go away old man, before I throw you into a very deep pit. Can’t you read the sign? This well is only for me and my family.

Old Man:  But forgive me O, great one for I am blind.

Chief:  That is no excuse. I will forgive you this time, but do not ever come back here again begging for my water.

Old Man:  Yes, of course, thank you for your mercy O, great one.

             (exit of Old Blind Man still tapping as he leaves. King and Servant also exit and return.)

StoryTeller:  The next day, the chief and his servant came back once again to the well to collect a bucket of water.

Chief: Munaku, throw that bucket inside the well, now.

          (The king points into the well and the Servant throws the bucket inside the well.)

Munaku: Yes, your majesty.

StoryTeller:  The bucket hit the bottom with a clunking noise. The chief looked inside his new well, in disappointed surprise.

Chief: What? There is no water in my well. Why not? Oh, well, maybe the water will come in a few days.

(Chief and Servant exit and return)

StoryTeller:  But every day he came to his well it was always dry.

Chief: Why does the water not come for heaven’s sake?

      (Chief calls for his wise man- servant brings in the wise man Mogezhi)

StoryTeller:  At last, he called his wise man and asked him:

Chief:  Mogezhi, if you value your life, show me the reason why my well remains empty.

Mogezhi: O chief, live forever, the well will be dry until the day you share it with your people.

Chief:  What? Emmmm! All right, very well then, the people of the village may draw water from the well only during the night, but I shall have it all day.

                        (Servant takes down old sign and posts new sign:

“Well for village use only at night.” )

StoryTeller:  And so it was decreed and the chief returned to the well the next day to see if the water had come.

Chief:  (looking inside well)   What? Still no water? Emm, perhaps, I will wait til nightfall and see what happens when people come to drink but I will hide in this empty building and watch from here so no one shall see me.

                    (lights dim Chief hides himself behind a flat that represents an old building)

StoryTeller:  As soon as the sun went down, all the villagers came to the well with empty vessels to draw water.

                   (enter villagers with vessels to fill water)

Villager:  Praise be to God – Water!

Village Woman:  It is cold and fresh and plentiful. Come children, there is enough to bathe in.

          (Children and Villagers play in the water and drink from it and fill their vessels.)

StoryTeller: Everyone drank and filled their pitchers to their heart’s content. All the village children had a fun time splashing and throwing water at each other until everyone was thoroughly wet. The chief went home quite puzzled and quite thirsty for he was ashamed to ask the villagers for water after he had been so selfish. The following day, as soon as the sun arose, the chief called to his servant.

   (all villagers exit with full vessels and Chief exits as well.)

   (Chief calls for servant – servant arrives with paintbrush and sign)

Chief: Come Munaku, and paint what I command.

Munaku: Yes, O, great one. It shall be written even as you have commanded.

(The chief whispers in the ear of Munaku the message. Munaku paints sign with sign’s   back to audience as Chief looks on.)

Chief: (laughing) Ahh, yes, that is good, that is very good.

StoryTeller:  The chief looked on in pleasure as his servant painted the new sign which read:

         “Come, whoever is thirsty, drink of these waters freely.”

StoryTeller:  Almost before the paint was dry, the chief could hear the pleasant sound of water gurgling and bubbling up from below.

Chief:  (looking into the well with servant and pointing)  Look, look, Munaku, soon the well will be full to the top.

Munaku: Yes, Yes, oh great one, and look all the villagers are coming out to drink.

         (King motions for Munaku to join him as they join the villagers dancing and playing. When the King arrives, everyone is afraid and surprised but then after realizing that he is changed join in the fun with him. All dance, drink, and play. The blind man also enters and joins in the fun with the Chief guiding him into the water and playing with him. The Wise Man – Mogezhi also joins in the fun.)

StoryTeller:  Everyone was surprised to see the formerly grumpy, mean and selfish chief, drinking, laughing, and joking with all of the villagers. From that day on, the well continued to give an abundance of fresh, clean, sweet water, even throughout the drought. It became known throughout the land as the well that never run dry. And thus was fulfilled the scripture:

“For the liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also.”

 

Bless Your Hands

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by Peter van Gorder

Farsi, Arabic, and Greek have common expressions which mean ‘bless your hands’. There is something blessed about using your hands to grow, shape, or create something beautiful or useful. It gives joy and fulfillment to the one who uses those blessed hands as well as the one who receives the fruit of their labors.

On the other hand (pun intended) there are some people who make a living at a trade that creates nothing – or less than nothing. I recently visited my friend who is quitting his job as a forex (currency) trader. He was deeply disheartened by what he had to do every day – which was to make a profit from his client’s losses. He was full of his subject and tried to educate me with terms like: basket of shorts, bear squeeze, cryptocurrency, dirty float, scalping & slipping, short margin, and a host of others. Most of it went over my head, but a few pointed questions to him gave me enough insight to know it is an area of business I never want to wade into.

I asked, “How many of your clients make money?” He told me, “Only 5% of my customers can ever expect to make any kind of profit. In fact, the only way that our company can make any money is by the commissions that we get from selling and buying, which is particularly high when a client loses everything.”

He went on to explain that this kind of financial trading is a lot like gambling with customers making one more trade in hope of winning big with their next deal and recouping their loses. Like gambling, it is the ‘house’ that almost always wins. In fact, his boss had instructed him to make his clients heavily lose money in order to fill the company’s coffers. He lamented how the boss was not satisfied with just cheating his clients, but had now started to shortchange his employees as well and remake the rules of the game to his advantage. It was time to move on and ‘get a life’.

 

In contrast to the financial wizards are the ‘green thumbers’. A friend of mine just wrote:

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“I just spent the better part of a week out in the garden. I can honestly say there is nothing one can do that is more rewarding than planting the pea, the nasturtium, or the tomato. I have done many things in my life, but seriously, nothing matches gardening. I grew up with my hands in the soil and remember well the joy.

“When I finish the day in the garden, I always have to stop at least 20 minutes and reflect on the deed.

“It is one of the most fulfilling senses of accomplishment I’ve ever felt. I know in the realm of worldly accomplishments it isn’t worth mentioning, but on the most basic level of human endeavors the acts of renewing the earth and fulfilling the calling of Adam to garden and commune with the Creator through this process is one of the highest yet humblest callings in life.

“The vast majority of people in the third world are committed to this vocation. 70% of Chinese lives are defined by the hoe and shovel…..that’s about 1 billion people and it is the about the same percentage for most of the countries throughout the world.

“For many though, “prosperity” has become more and more a process of meaningless financial/ service industries. Let’s get “back” to the garden. So many problems would solve themselves if life were simpler.

“Some people have asked me. “How many hours did I spend working in the garden a week?” I respond, “I really don’t know and I don’t care. I’m just relaxing and having so much fun in my garden.” They smile and want to give me their address so that I can relax and have fun in their yard too, ha.

“But I honestly wouldn’t mind if I had the time. It is very relaxing, fulfilling and very rewarding thing to do after work and on the weekends. Guess what? I have a 3 day weekend coming up. Yaeahhh!….. You know what I’m going to be doing.

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Captain Andy

 

 

 

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by Curtis Peter van Gorder

“When you look up into the clouds think about me, “my father told me as we strolled down a wooded path with his arm in mine just after his 85th birthday celebration. We had a family reunion that summer. Our family came from all over the country and the world to honor the man that helped us come to be. This was something that we had never done before.

Though my dad and I hadn’t seen each other much over the last 30 some years, except for an occasional visit, experiences we had shared together, mysteriously became a part of me, even the little things.  As a boy, I used to be enthralled at how he washed his hands – thoroughly and repeatedly.  I wasn’t always so enthralled however, at his idea of a good time – cleaning up the garage on a Saturday afternoon.

Memories are selective and we frame the pleasant experiences while filing away the unsavory ones. In my mind’s gallery I recall what we did together: the afternoons spent playing catch in the backyard, the deep sea fishing trips, the two week canoe voyage down the Allegheny River with our Boy Scout troop, the search and discovery of the perfect Christmas tree to decorate our home, the victorious feeling of getting a kite up into the blue atop a windy hill. These moments are all precious parts of me something I would like my children to know about.

Our life together, especially during my turbulent teen years was not always smooth sailing, but the years have a way of putting things in perspective. I grew up in the turbulent 60’s when established values were questioned and tested against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. At that time, I insisted on wearing long hair as a token defiance to the ‘system’.  My dad and I had a few heated battles about the need to cut my hair, but the last time I visited him, I was nearly bald and he was the one sporting the long locks. How trivial our former confrontations seem now.

Our communication was sometimes strained. I thought he didn’t understand my quest for freedom and purpose in life. Though now in perspective, I realized he understood more than I realized – it’s a shame we didn’t talk about it. He tended to be reticent and keep his thoughts to himself. In hindsight, which they say is always 20-20, I would have taken the time to understand his viewpoint more.

After I had grown up and had a family of my own, I began to understand him during our visits together. As he shared the life changing moments of his time, like when he had escaped being stung to death from a swarm of angry bees by running away and jumping into the nearest river and covering himself with mud,  or a time in WW2 when he missed death by only a few meters when the ammunition ship in front of his was blown up by a torpedo fired from a Japanese submarine. I discovered he wrote poems about what mattered to him. Through them I learned things out about him that I had never realized before. I knew he had sailed in ships, but not how much sailing meant to him until I read his poem.

 

Sailing

By Andrew C. Van Gorder

 

I dream of having a sailboat

Of my very own.

I want to be able

To go on a lake or bay

And set my sails

On a course

That will take me far

I want to feel

The sun on my face

And the wind in my hair.

I want to look up and see

The sky

And taste the spray.

I want to hear the sounds

Of my boat

As it moves through the

I have this dream

That keeps me

Wanting to go on from here

And know the joy and freedom

Of my being.

June 24, 1975

 

Somehow, after we read this poem, the nickname Captain Andy stuck among my brother and sister as my dad’s nickname. I also found out he volunteered his time as a Coast Guard inspector of recreational boats. There was a world of things I never took the time to learn what really mattered to him.

I asked my dad if he had any advice for his children and grandchildren. His answer was, “Follow your dream.” A quote that hangs on his wall that was dear to him, written in beautiful calligraphy, reflects his philosophy.

 

If a man does not keep pace with his companions,

Perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.

Let him step to the music which he hears,

However measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau (“Walden,” 1854)

 

Throughout our years of struggling to do just that, and even sometimes when we were still formulating our goals in life, he worked hard to help us realize our dream whatever it was at that time and it often changed dramatically. When we foundered and got in a bind, he was there to bail us out, like the time I was held at the police office for climbing a tree at a city park and refused to come down. Dad was there for us when we needed him most.

Captain Andy passed away a few months after our family reunion we had in his honor. But somehow he still feels near.

I answered my dad that day when we walked in the woods, “Dad, I don’t need to look at clouds to keep your memory alive, you are right here,”  I said as I touched my heart.

If we take the time to discover our fathers  we will discover a precious part of ourselves. Perhaps, we will better understand our roots and we will form bonds that will stretch out into eternity. The stories  and experiences that our fathers have lived and pass on to us are treasures to pass on to our children – our true family heirlooms.

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Fly Sky High with the Pi

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by Peter van Gorder

While attending my son’s wedding in the Philippines I was given the opportunity of riding in a small 2-passenger “Full Lotus” catamaran airplane over the tropical waters that are located about an hour away from Cebu.

I was a bit afraid to try it as I had never flown in an aerolite sports plane before and it seemed a bit risky; but the pilot was inviting me to go for free, so how could I pass it up. I knew that being the poor volunteer worker that I was; I would never shell out the 50 dollars to make another flight later. A voice told me, it was now or never – go for it – so I did.

After allaying my initial fears, I strapped myself in and prepared for the adventure by doing the only thing I could – by saying a silent prayer for safety. After taxing over the water and picking up speed we were soon airborne. Looking down below we saw some boat passengers waving up at us –perhaps they were saluting our courage to conquer the sky. – Something earthbound man just learned to do in the last century. If I would see these same folks in the city tomorrow they might not even give a second look at me but here when we were sky high, they were waving like crazy to us. Human nature salutes those who dare.

Then the pilot motioned to me that he had given the controls over to me, and it was now my turn to fly the plane. It was a bit unnerving to think that an engine not much bigger than a lawnmower and a few flimsy aluminum poles, cloth and wire were the only things keeping us in the air and preventing us from plummeting to a watery doom. Every slight move to the left or right with the combination of the stick and foot pedal moved the aerilon, which changed our course drastically. My pilot instructed me over the headset– “easy does it – it doesn’t take much.” I soon found out how right he was when I moved the stick to one side or the other. The wind whipped at us mercilessly. It seemed that one sudden gust might overturn us. The pilot had complete confidence of course. He was there to grab the controls just in case I became impulsive or froze up.

It was a thrill I will never forget – I was glad I had taken the chance to experience the joy of flying like a bird. Perhaps flying is something that we will yet learn to do in our new spiritual bodies when we pass over to the other side.

I was wondering what to write about this thrilling experience. What lessons could I draw from it? Then I was reminded of a popular bumper sticker that I saw almost daily a few years back when I was living in Indonesia. “GOD IS MY CO-PILOT” . What I needed in that airplane was not a co-pilot but a pilot. Perhaps the sticker would be more accurate to our true condition if it read “GOD IS MY PILOT’. Sad to say, for some people that’s all God is to them – their co-pilot. They hope that they can be in the controls and guide the plane wherever they choose and God will just be tagging along for the ride in case the pilot has a heart attack or just needs a rest. That is not the case, God is the one who owns the plane and the Lord is at the controls. Jesus is the co-pilot. The stewards and stewardesses are the angels. We are the passengers. We choose the route we wish to take and when to take it, but is the Lord who is behind the wheel. No wonder we sometimes crash in our life if we don’t allow God to take full control.

I later learned that the flying club had been given a certain area and height that they were allowed to fly at without any prior approval, but if they went out of that restricted range they had to file a specific flight plan ahead of time and have it approved. Now, that is more like reality. If we want to stay safely in God’s Will, we best check in with the control tower and follow His instructions. Flying like living can be risky business. After all it is a matter of life and death. So it behooves us to follow the master flight plan.

Of course, if you want to be a pilot in God’s Airline, you can if you have the commitment level, dedication, and obedience that equals if not surpasses that of an airline pilot. Then someday when you have earned your wings, you too can help others arrive safely to their heavenly destination.

He leads and we follow. God is my pilot.