Abbreviated from the original manuscript, "The Children of the King" by Max Lucado, with Illustrations by Toni Goffe. "A long time ago, in a land much like your own..."
1. There were five orphans, all on their own. A king learned of their misfortune and decreed he would be their Father and planned to come for them.
2. All the people in the village thought it odd. The king already had many people to care for. "Why does the king want them?" they asked. He had his reasons.
3. When the children learned they would have a Father, and he was the king (no less!) they were overjoyed!
4. But the townsfolk said, "You need to impress the king. Only those with great gifts will be allowed in the castle."
5. So the children worked long and hard preparing their offerings. They devoted their days to woodworking, musical performing, painting, and intellectual pursuits – all with the hope of impressing the king.
6. But there was one little girl with nothing to offer. She didn't have all the innate gifts of her siblings. All she had was a good heart. So she spent her time at the city gate and made pennies as a greeter.
7. Still, as time went on, believing she had no great gift, she grew anxious. She ran to her siblings, begging them to share their talents with her, but they had no time for her.
8. She asked each one, "Brother, sister – will you help me?" And one by one they dismissed her. "Can't you see that we're busy? Go away."
9. So she took her place back at the city gates. After some days, a merchant came to the village. "Can you feed my donkey?" he asked the girl. She was happy to help.
10. She offered to care for the man's donkey, asked him if he was weary from the journey.
11 She presented him with a seat to rest. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.
12. When he opened his eyes, the little girl was looking at him. She had stayed with him the whole time. "What do you seek?" he asked her. "Nothing. You seem very kind, it is peaceful to be near you," she responded.
13. The man informed the girl that he had to go, but promised he'd return soon. And when he finally came back, he shared how he had gone to find her siblings, but they were too busy for him.
14. The girls eyes widened, "But you don't look like a king!!" He said, "I try not to, being a king can be lonely. People are always asking favors and trying to impress me. At times I just want to be with my people, to hear about their day, to be their Father." She worried, "But my brothers and sisters?" He promised her that he'd be back for them too – maybe they'll have more time another day.
Never underestimate the value of the gift of time and small acts of kindness – all hearts are capable, and they just might be two of the greatest gifts we have to offer.