What the Heart Knows.
Some of my TCM students will recall this story. The actual, physical copy of this story has a history of its own. The original copy in my file is a mimeograph copy (1970) that is yellowed and faded. Then there is a Xerox copy. Now, the story is in Microsoft Word document. I dedicate this post to a former student of mine, Rhonda Autrey, who is now on staff at Pensacola Christian College and recently told me she used this story in her speech class. It is my hope that as it goes to yet another generation, that the story will continue to bless and challenge hearts.
Here is “What the Heart Knows.”
Three men and a boy entered the noisy town together. The shepherd and older sons had been to market many times, but never before had ten-year-old Timothy left the Judean hills. He was told to amuse himself until they were ready to leave. As the boy walked along the teeming streets, turning his head this way and that, he eyes were never still.
After awhile, he came to the donkey mart. Here, he felt completely at home for Josephus, the keeper of the stall, was a friend of the family. Tired of the haggling and all the noise, Timothy wandered toward the back of the yard. There he saw a small donkey lying quietly on the ground.
“Josephus, what’s the matter with this one?”
“Lame leg, he’s always been a sick one. It’s worse than having a sick lamb around.to care for.”
Timothy knelt beside the animal and stroked its dark head. The soft brown eyes looked appealingly into the child’s own and won his heart instantly. Timothy knew what it was like to be lonely. It was dreadful. The donkey, too, had lost its mother.
“Poor little donkey, if you were mine, I’d take care of you and you could help me with the sheep when you got stronger again.”
Josephus smiled as he listened to the boy. “Uh. . . how would you like to have him, Tim?”
“Me? Would you give him to me?”
“Why don’t you take him along with you? Nobody’s going to pay good money for that specimen.”
From that moment on, Estobal, for that is what Tim named him, was the best and handsomest donkey in the world. Of course, some people might make fun, and call him a runt, and say he’d soon be dead, but Tim knew better. Tim’s brothers especially liked to tease him about his pet.
“How far do you think he can travel? A mile? Two miles maybe. Tell me that Tim.”
“I bet he could travel—all the way to Egypt!”
“Oh, no, no. Do you know where Egypt is? Why that little runt could not get to Egypt.”
“Now, Amos, he might get there, but would be able to get back?”
“Yes, he would—I know he would! Why he’s a good donkey. He’s—he’s good enough—to carry a King!”
Let them laugh. Tim wasn’t lonely any more. He had a friend..
Tim loved the night with its soft sounds. He loved the stars and knew their names all of which he passed to Estobal. One night as they were returning home from a long walk over the hills, they heard the fall of footsteps on the turf. Soon around the bend in the road came a man leading a donkey with someone on its back. The travelers stopped beside the gate. The man was breathing hard from fast walking and the woman was glancing anxiously behind her.
“Peace be unto you.”
The man peered at him, then turned to the woman, “It’s only a lad, Mary. There’s nothing to fear.”
“You seem tired, sir. Will you rest the night at my father’s house?”
“We cannot. There are enemies abroad. Those who seek the babe.”
“Is that a baby? May I see him? (looks at the child) He’s little. Where are you going?”
“Somewhere a long way off.”
“But your feet are lame from walking. You can’t travel far.”
“I must. The life of the little one depends on it.”
“Is someone chasing you?”
“We can trust no one.”
Behind them a harsh sound shattered the stillness of the night. The man stiffened.
“Aw, that’s only my donkey. I guess he wants to go with you. He talks to me like that when he wants to go somewhere. (suddenly realizing what he just said) Oh, but he’s not strong. He is just little—he can’t carry anyone very far.”
“Thank you, my boy. We’ll just go on as we came.”
Estobal pushed close to Tim, touching the boy’s cheek with his long nose.
(whispering) “Estobal, what’s the matter with you? You wouldn’t want to leave me, would you? They might be going to Egypt! You might not ever get back.”
Tim looked at his donkey. He didn’t look small tonight. He didn’t even look feeble. He held his head high. Maybe he could—maybe he ought to—but no, it was too terrible.
Tim watched the tiny procession pass beyond the gate Then he put his head on his donkey’s side and wept aloud. “I know you want to go, Estobal, I know you do, but I’d—die.”
The donkey nuzzled him and Tim raised his eyes. The donkey wasn’t looking at him, but down the road. Tim tugged at the bridle. The donkey didn’t move. Tim pulled on the bridle again with swift, impatient jerks. The donkey held his ground. Tim whistled softly—that summons always brought the
animal to him. Now Estobal’s ears twitched a little—that was all. The donkey was half turned away from Tim, looking down the road.
“Estobal, you really want to go.”
Quickly Tim swung around; the bridle tightly in his hand. Down the road he ran, a willing Estobal beside him. What had to be done must be done quickly. He called to the traveler.
“Mister, Sir, here’s my donkey. He wants to go with you. He could carry the woman—the woman and the baby.”
“Heaven bless you lad—but he’s you pet, isn’t he?”
“I—do love him, Sir. He knows it. Please do take him. I think he could go as far as Egypt.”
“I believe Jehovah has sent your donkey. Thank you lad, we will take him.”
Tim caressed the donkey’s ears one last time. “Good-bye, Estobal. Good-bye. You take good care of him sir (almost in tears) He’s a good donkey. He’s good enough to carry a King.”
AND SO HE WAS.’