On Mother’s Day 1956, Rev. Peter Marshall an American Presbyterian church and chaplain to the U.S. Senate told the following story:
There was once a quiet forest dweller who lived high above an Austrian village along the eastern slope of the Alps. The old gentleman had been hired many years earlier by a young town councillor to clear away the debris from the pools of water up in the mountain crevices that fed the lovely spring flowing through their town. With faithful, silent regularity, he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt that would otherwise have choked and contaminated the fresh flow of water.
The village soon became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal spring, the mill wheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and the view from restaurants was picturesque beyond description.
Years passed. One evening the town council met for its monthly meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one person’s eye caught the salary figure being paid the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of the purse, “who is this old man? Why do we keep him year after year? No one sees him. For all we know, the stranger in the hills is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer.” By a unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old man’s services.
For several weeks nothing changed. By early autumn the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A few days later, the water was much darker. Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks, and a foul odour was soon detected. The mill wheels moved more slowly, some finally ground to a halt. Swans left, as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.
Quickly the embarrassed council called a special meeting. Realizing their gross error in judgement, they rehired the old keeper of the spring, and within a few weeks, the veritable river of life began to clear up. The wheels started to turn and new life returned to the hamlet in the Alps. The End.
It’s a great story. It’s parable about love.
We all have people who have been the keepers of the springs of our lives. Sometimes they are mother’s, or grandmothers. Sometimes they are sisters or aunts. Sometimes they are people not connected to us through blood, but have nevertheless embodied love for us. This is the day to celebrate their place in our lives, and if we are able, to show them our thanks in person. Their quiet, selfless acts of love, compassion and encouragement helped to make us who we are today.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the keepers of the spring.