By Paulo Coelho
(adapted from a story sent by reader Shirlei Massapust)
Many years ago there lived in Japan a young man called Humi, who made his living breaking stones. Although strong and healthy, he was not happy with his lot and complained day and night.
On Christmas day he prayed fervently and his guardian angel finally appeared before him.
– You are healthy and you have a full life ahead of you, – said the angel. – All the young people start by doing something. Why are you always complaining?
– God has been unfair to me and hasn’t given me the chance to grow, – answered Humi.
Concerned, the angel sought out the Lord to ask for help so that his protégé would not end up losing his soul.
– As you will, said the Lord. – Since it is Christmas, all that Humi wants will be granted.
On the following day Humi was breaking stones when he saw a carriage pass by bearing a noble covered in jewels. Wiping his sweaty, dirty brow with his hands, Humi said bitterly:
– Why can’t I be a noble too? That’s my destiny!
– That you shall be! – murmured his angel with immense joy.
And Humi was transformed into the owner of a sumptuous palace and many estates and always surrounded by servants and horses. Every day he would parade with his impressive retinue and he liked to see his old companions lining the streets and looking at him with respect.
On one such afternoon, the heat was unbearable and even under his golden sun-shade Humi was sweating just like he did in the days when he broke stones. Then he realized that he was not all that important, for above him there were princes, emperors, and even above all them was the sun, who obeyed no-one, for it was the true king.
– Ah, my angel! Why can’t I be the sun? That is to be my destiny! – complained Humi.
– That you shall be! – exclaimed the angel, hiding his sadness at such pretension.
And Humi became the sun, for that was his wish.
While he shone in the sky, admired for his gigantic power of ripening the crops or else burning them as he felt the whim, a black spot began to approach him. The dark shadow grew bigger and bigger and Humi noticed that it was a cloud spreading all around him and making it impossible for him to see the Earth.
– Angel! – shouted Humi – The cloud is stronger than the sun! My fate is to be a cloud!
– That you shall be! – answered the angel.
Humi was transformed into a cloud and thought that his dream had come true.
– I am powerful! – he shouted out, darkening the sun.
– I am invincible! – he thundered, chasing the waves.
But along the desert coast of the ocean rose up an immense rock of granite as old as the world. Humi thought that the rock was defying him and worked up a storm that the world had never before cast eyes on. The enormous, angry waves beat away at the rock trying to tear it up out of the soil and toss it far into the depths of the sea.
But the rock stood firm and impassive in its place.
– Angel! – sobbed Humi – the rock is stronger than the cloud! My lot is to be a rock!
And Humi was transformed into a rock.
– Who can beat me now? – he asked himself. – I am the most powerful in the world!
And so many years passed by until one morning Humi felt a sharp nudge in his stone entrails, followed by a deep pain as if a part of his granite body had been dilacerated. Then he heard dull, insistent blows and once again the gigantic pain.
Fear-crazed, he began to roar out:
– Angel, somebody’s trying to kill me! He’s more powerful than I am, I want to be like him!
– That you shall be! – exclaimed the angel in tears.
And that is how Humi went back to breaking stones.
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