One day, a countryman knocked hard on a monastery door. When the monk tending the gates opened up, he was given a magnificent bunch of grapes.
"Brother, these are the finest grapes my vineyard has produced. I’ve come to offer them as a gift."
"Thank you! I will take them to the Abbot immediately, he will be delighted with this offering."
"No", responded the countryman, "I brought them for you. For whenever I knock on the door, it is you opens it. When I needed help because my crop was destroyed by drought, you gave me a piece of bread and a cup of wine every day." The monk slightly bowed his head, and the countryman went on his way.
The monk held the cluster of grapes and spent the entire morning admiring it. In reflection, he decided to gift the grapes to the Abbot, for it was the Abbot who always encouraged him with words of wisdom.
The Abbot was very pleased with the grapes, and admired their beauty for some time, taking in the color and the shapes. He then recalled that there was a sick brother in the monastery, and thought, “I’ll give him the grapes. Who knows, they may bring him some joy and healing.” And that is what he did.
The sick monk was overjoyed, and thanked the Abbot for his generosity. He too was taken by the beauty of the grapes, and saw in them a magnificent work of art, with patterns of repeated themes and slightly variegated colors. He reflected: “The cook has looked after me for so long, feeding me only the best meals. I’m sure he will enjoy these.”
The cook was amazed at the beauty of the grapes. He carefully arranged them in a large platter alongside other fruit for the evening meal, and while admiring them, he realized, "These grapes are perfect, so perfect that no one would appreciate them more than the sexton." Many at the monastery considered him a holy man, a mystic, and he would best value this marvel of nature.
But the sexton, in turn, gave the grapes as a gift to the youngest novice, that he might understand that the work of G!d is in the smallest details of creation.
And when the novice received them, he quietly recalled the first time he came to the monastery, hoping to be among a community of people who knew how to value the wonders of life. He pictured the person who had opened the gates for him.
And so, just before nightfall, he took the grapes to the monk at the gate.
"Eat and enjoy them", he said. You spend most of your time alone here, these grapes are most deservedly yours.
The monk humbly bowed his head and accepted the grapes, as he understood that the gift had always been truly meant for him. He relished each of the grapes, before falling into a pleasant sleep.
Mark Novak is co-founder of The MultiFaith Storytelling Institute