(I dedicate this story to a special friend of mine.)
A long, long time ago, in a land called Israel, there lived a little girl named Seraphina. It was such a long time ago that people had not yet thought of televisions, cars, computers, or even shoelaces!
In fact, no one wore shoes at all. If they had enough money they wore sandals, otherwise they just walked around in bear feet. Oops, no, that’s not right. They did not walk around with growling, hairy bear feet; I should have said bare feet. You know, feet with no shoes or sandals or boots or even socks. Though a lot of men do actually have hair on their feet, but we do not want to think about that, do we – ugh!
And this little girl, Seraphina, she had a problem. Well, actually, it was a really, really big problem. She would get up in the morning; go down to the creek and quickly wash and put on clean clothes. But as her parents were poor she never put on sandals – she just walked around the village in bare feet. (Remember, that’s nothing to do with growling, ugly bears, it just means she is not wearing sandals or shoes or socks. Not that she could have worn shoes or socks yet anyway, because they had not invented them yet.)
On with the story! After washing and putting on clean clothes, Seraphina hurried to the village market to look for food scraps on the ground. Sometimes some of the market stall people dropped things and Seraphina would collect them to take home and share with her family.
But when Seraphina walked into the village market area, the people closest to her started to say things like this:
“What’s that smell?”
“Oh man, did something die in the air-conditioning?”
“We have not invented that yet, you dummy!”
And then the people would notice Seraphina, look down at her bare feet, and quickly move away from her, but this time saying things like this:
“Oh no, it’s that girl again!”
“Ugh – it’s Miss Smelly Foot!”
“Quick, get me nose plugs!”
“We have not invented those yet either, Mister Silly!”
Poor little Seraphina watched as everyone ran away from her. Soon the market area was empty. She knew she should quickly look for food scraps and then hurry home to the hovel she lived in her with parents and two brothers, but today she was too sad. She had washed her feet so thoroughly this morning, why did they still smell! Was it something to do with the itchy, flaky skin between her toes that sometimes throbbed with pain?
Seraphina sat down on a low wooden stool (yes, they had invented those!) and cried. She was so busy crying and feeling sad and not being happy that she did not notice someone walking across the market to come and stand in front of her.
Seraphina eventually realised that instead of staring at the dusty ground, she was staring at a pair of sandals. And the sandals had big feet in them. Puzzled, Seraphina looked up and saw a big man with broad shoulders looking down at her. He was carrying a wide jug.
“Why aren’t you running away from my smelly feet like every one else?” she sniffed.
The tall man smiled. “Well, other people look at your feet and the bad smell and they run away. But I look at your heart, and it smells like a beautiful rose garden, so that makes me want to come and meet you.”
The little girl was surprised. “You can smell my heart?”
The man nodded. “Absolutely. I can smell roses, tulips, daisies, and red and blue wildflowers. What a beautiful heart you have!”
Seraphina looked at the man’s jug. “Why are you carrying that big jug? What is in it?”
“Oh,” the man said with a sparkle in his eyes, “it’s full of water. Would you like me to wash your feet?”
“What’s the point? They still smell just as bad after I wash them,” pouted the little girl.
“Ah,” said the man, “but not after I wash them.”
Seraphina lifted her robes up to her knees. “Then please, wash away!”
The man put down the large jug of water and rolled up his sleeves. He picked up the little girl’s feet and popped them in the water. Then he washed them thoroughly with his calloused hands.
She watched him while he washed her feet, “You look familiar, mister, have I see you before?”
“I walked through this village two years ago. We saw each other briefly,” the man said, smiling. Finished with his washing, he pulled out her feet and dried them with the hem of his long robe.
Seraphina looked at her feet in amazement. They were not itching, the skin looked brand new, and, most of all – there was NO smell! She jumped up and threw her small arms around the man. “Thank you so much, mister!”
The man picked up the jug and stood up, “It was my pleasure, Seraphina.”
“You know my name?”
“Of course! I’ve always known you,” he said, his eyes sparkling again.
“So what’s your name, then, mister?” she asked as he started walking away.
“Oh. It’s Jesus.”
Seraphina’s feet never did smell bad again. In fact, after that day, a lot of people said she smelt like a rose garden…
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