Waldorf News

What Happened to a Blade of Grass: An Advent Story by Eugene Schwartz

Note: It was in mid-November that a challenging bullying issue arose in my fourth grade class. There were no physical threats, but one boy with an especially sharp tongue was hurling insults at a sensitive and insecure classmate whenever he had the chance. Loki’s vituperative downfall would not be part of our story content for several more months, and I had to take some measures immediately. Having been asked to speak at the Green Meadow Waldorf School’s Advent Assembly, I created this “pedagogical story” for the school, for my class, and especially for the bully and his victim. There are “experts” who claim that telling pedagogical stories is no longer an effective antidote to social problems, but I beg to differ. Try this story for yourself. You can find more Advent and Hanukkah stories by Eugene Schwartz on his website: millennialchild.com/stories.html

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Once upon a time, a blade of grass grew in a mountain meadow.

She was a joyful blade of grass, for she delighted in the spring rains that made her swell and grow, in the western winds that made her bend and sway, and most of all, in the Sun that filled her with its loving light and warmth.

One day, the blade of grass was so filled with her joy that she called out, to no one in particular,

“Oh, I am the happiest blade of grass in the world!”

A raven was sitting on a fence nearby and overheard the exultant cry of the blade of grass.  He croaked in derision,

“Happy, are you?  How can you be so pleased with yourself when you do no one any good?”

“Whatever do you mean?” asked the blade of grass.

“Look at the meadow on the other side of this fence,” said the raven, “A herd of cows graze there, and all of the blades of grass in that meadow are feeding the cows, whose milk then feeds the children in the town.  But you are not good enough to be food for the cows.  You are of no use at all!”

The blade of grass looked through the fence, and saw that what the raven said was true.  She could hear the sighs of delight that came from those blades of grass as the cows consumed them.  She said hopefully,

“Once the cows have eaten all of the grass in that meadow, then surely they will be brought here, and I, too, will feed them.”

The raven laughed.  “Only wait!  Only wait!” he shrieked, and flew away.

The weeks passed, and the blade of waited, but the cows never came to her meadow.  By now she had grown tall and strong.  A host of tiny, fragrant flowers appeared on her long stem, and she stood straight and bore them with shy delight.  The rain cooled her, the wind caressed her, and sun wafted its warmth towards her.  She forgot about the cows and cried out once again,

“Oh, I am the happiest blade of grass in the world!”

The raven was near, and he sneered.

“My, you are a proud one!  But look at the grasses in that meadow!  The farmer is mowing them down to give to his cows during the long, snowy winter.  But you are of no use to him for that, either.”

The blade of grass looked through the fence, and saw that what the raven said was true.  She could hear the sighs of delight that came from those blades of grass as the farmer cut them down.  She said bravely,

“Once the farmer has mowed all of the grass in that meadow, then surely he will mow here, and I, too, will be stored away.”

The raven laughed.  “Only wait!  Only wait!” he shrieked, and flew away.

The weeks passed, and the blade of grass of waited, but the farmer never appeared in her meadow.  Autumn was coming, and her flowers had given way to a crown of seeds.  The Sun had shone so long upon her that the blade of grass was becoming sun-golden herself.  Crimson leaves on the mountainside waved to her in the wind, and stray snowflakes sparkled like jewels in her crown .  She forgot about the cows and the farmer and the mowing and cried out once again,

“Oh, I am the happiest blade of grass in the world!”

The raven flew by, and he snickered.

“You are so pleased with your tresses of golden seeds, but look over yonder.  The farmer’s wife and children are moving across the meadow, swinging their scythes, and soon they’ll make an end to you.  And once they’ve threshed away your seeds, do you think that they’ll have any use for you?  They’ll crush you, and bind you, and hurl you into a place where the Sun never shines!”

The blade of grass looked up, and saw that what the raven said was true.  Even when she was young, and green, and filled with life, she had not been good enough for the cows to eat, nor had she been worthy of being mowed.  Of what use could she be now that she was old, and hollow, and bereft of her seeds?  But she spoke bravely.

“But surely I will be spared!  My seeds will fall into the earth, and next year I will rise again and be of use to someone.”

The raven laughed.  “Only wait!  Only wait!” he shrieked, and flew away.

Very soon afterwards, the blade of grass was torn from the earth by a sharp blade wielded by the farmer’s son.  She was thrown onto a long wagon and crushed by the weight of thousands of her cousins.  On the threshing room floor she was beaten and thrown in the wind and cast down again.  Her roots were cut, her seeds were gone, and she felt herself nothing more than a hollow tube, frail and weak and useless.  After some time she was gathered up with many other empty companions, tightly bound, and cast into a cold, dark place.  All that the raven had spoken had come to pass.

No longer did the wind whisper to her; no longer did the rains refresh her; and, hardest to bear, no longer did the Sun, with its light and warmth, brighten her summer days.  The days, weeks and months passed in cold and in darkness.  The blade of grass, now nothing more than a piece of straw, would sometimes sleep and dream of her beautiful life in the summer meadow, only to awaken with a start and lament her present lot.

One day, a bright light suddenly shone upon her, and a gust of wind rustled her.  The storeroom door had been opened, and two people stood nearby, gazing upon the bales of straw that were piled up in the cavernous space.

“This is the last of my straw,” said the woman.

“It will do,” replied the man.

In less than a moment the blade of grass and the bale in which she was bound were hurtling through the air and landing with a thud on the wooden floor of a wagon.  Bale after bale came crashing down on top of her, but the blade of grass rejoiced. “I will do!” she thought, “But what will I do?”

When all of the bales were loaded the ox-drawn wagon began a long descent down a curving mountain road.  Dust rose up as the wooden wheels dug more deeply into age-old ruts, birds dove down to pluck at the seeds that remained on the strands of straw, and cold winds tried to scatter the bales.  On and on they traveled, until the wagon pulled into the courtyard of a little inn on the outskirts of a small village.  Upon the command of the man who had piled the straw into the wagon, an army of servants appeared and began to unload it.

“Be quick!” cried the man, “It is taxing time, and we will have many guests tonight!”

Most of the straw was lain upon the wooden palettes that would serve the guests as beds, and much of what remained was strewn upon the floors of the tavern and its kitchen, ready to absorb whatever fell or spilled.  But when the servants had completed their tasks, the blade of grass and a few of her companions still lay in a random heap on the wagon.

“What of these?” a servant asked the master, who replied,

“The inn is complete.  Use that straw in the stable.”

The blade of grass felt sorrow.  She was not even good enough to stuff the mattresses on which the guests would lie, or to drink up the gravy spilled by the cook!  Were she not so completely dry and hollow, she would have shed a tear as she was roughly cast down onto the manger of the stable.  An ox that lay nearby continued to chew his cud and showed no interest in the slender blade of grass.  She could hear the shuffle of feet and the cries of the servants as guests began to fill the inn, but the in the stable all was still.

Night fell, and the blade of grass was immersed in darkness once more.  The inn and its courtyard had grown quiet as the guests left the tavern and retired to their rooms.  But the silence was broken by voices outside, and by the muffled braying of a donkey.  The innkeeper entered, bearing a lantern, and soon an old man, a young woman and a donkey had settled in the stable.  It grew dark once more.  Then there was movement, a flame that burned and was consumed, and the beating of wings.  The woman groaned, and the cries of a baby followed her tears.

The newborn was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in the manger.  The blade of grass was moved by a pair of callused hands and pressed up against the baby’s body.  The blade of grass suddenly remembered her summer in the meadow, and the Sun that had filled her with its loving light and warmth.  Though it was winter, and though it was the dead of night, that same Sun was shining upon her in the manger.

As the baby squirmed, the blade of grass sensed how much of his weight she was supporting with her frail body; as the wintry breezes blew through the open door of the stable, she felt how much warmth she could hold in her hollow being, and in the darkness of the night, she slowly learned to glow with a light that shone from within.  And the blade of grass rejoiced, for now she knew that she could, after all, be of good use.

Outside, on the bare branch of a wintry tree, a raven cowered in the chill night air and looked with longing at the ox and the ass and little family who rested contentedly in their secure stable.  And in the meadow where the blade of grass had once grown and slowly ripened, three shepherds stirred in their sleep, soon to set out on their journey to Bethlehem.

The End

Advent Garden at the Sheiling School, Thornbury, England

Top photo image of Advent apple from Tacoma Waldorf School