Thursday, July 8, 2021

What Can You Be the Best at in the World?

Daughter, Find Your Purpose: A short story.

I haven't written much this past month or so, but I've always found a writing challenge to be a good motivator to get me back in the writing habit. The "Ask Yourself Empowering Questions" writer's challenge has done just that, and I have been working through the list of ten prompts. 

Rather than explore and write about my own “best gift,” I answered prompt #7 “What can you be the best at in the world?” with a short piece of fiction.

The main character's talent fits well with the theme of this blog, making the most of every moment, so I've decided to share this story here. Enjoy ... 

Image by author, Susan Foster

Daughter, Find Your Purpose

The king stared hard at his daughter. She was 14 and floundering. It seemed she had no purpose. Life as a royal had made her soft. When he was her age, a commoner not yet married to the queen, he had worked hard to survive. He chopped wood, hunted, fished, and foraged for his family. He cared for his younger siblings and often counseled his widowed mother. All of these responsibilities taught him decision-making and leadership. He knew those traits made him a good leader. But, what was his eldest daughter even good at? It was time, he decided, for her to find out.

“Daughter, I am giving you a task. You have one week to figure out what you can be the best at in the world. Once you do, I want you to tell me about it. Together, we will decide how this will affect your future. It is time you found your purpose.”

His daughter, Maribeth, gazed at him with love in her eyes. “Yes, father. I would like to do that. Can you tell me how?”

“No, dear daughter, discovering your gifts is something you must do by yourself. Now, off you go, and find your skill.”

Deep in thought, Maribeth wandered towards her chambers. Her path to her room was not a direct one, however, as was so often the case. In the hallway just down from her bedroom, she encountered Jane, her lady-in-waiting, struggling to carry a heavy load of bed linens. Kindly, Maribeth took part of the burden and carried the sheets to the laundry tub for the maid. On the way back, she stopped to steady a ladder while the lamplighter replaced a high candle.

Once finally in her room, Maribeth sat with quill in hand at her desk, staring at a piece of parchment upon which she had written 

Things I am best at:
#1. …

Maribeth was stuck. She couldn’t think of even one thing to add to her list. 

As she sat there, her thoughts were interrupted by a tapping sound. Following the whispery noise, she realized a moth had become trapped behind the heavy drapery over her window. Carefully she lifted it and released the poor creature into the open air.

Sighing, she thought perhaps a ride would inspire her. Maribeth changed into her riding habit and walked down to the stables. It took a while, because en-route, she retrieved a ball that had been kicked by two small children over a wall; played fetch with one of the dogs that guarded the castle; helped the gardener weed a patch of the flower garden; and directed a merchant the kitchen door so he could sell his basket of produce to the cook.

Upon arrival to the stables, Maribeth realized the grooms were frantically busy getting ready for the upcoming hunt. She told them not to worry, she could curry and saddle her own horse. Before doing so, she grabbed a pitchfork and cleaned the stall, so they would have one less task to do. 

Towards the end of her ride, Maribeth came upon one of the castle’s barn cats, with a badly injured paw. It appeared to have caught its foot in something, perhaps a snare, and the cat had injured it pulling loose. Gently, she scooped the cat into her skirt, climbed back into her saddle, and rode home cradling it in her lap, soothing it with her voice. Once there, she cleaned and bandaged the wound and brought the cat to her bedroom for surveillance and further care. The feral cat seemed to know she was helping it and didn’t try to scratch or bite her, even though it was clearly in pain.

Throughout the week Maribeth’s days continued much the same. She added writing, cooking, needlepoint, playing piano, painting, and singing to her list, but then crossed off each one. Although she was competent in all these skills, she knew she was far from the best in the world at any of them. In addition to English, she could speak French and German, but neither as fluently as her sister. Maribeth was good at her lessons but didn’t know enough science or arithmetic to consider herself a scholar. She began to wonder if she even had a gift or a purpose.

Just before the two weeks were up, Maribeth’s lady-in-waiting found her in the garden, crying. “My lady, whatever is the matter.”

“Oh, Jane. Remember I told you father tasked me with discovering what I am best at in the world, and gave me one week to do so? Well, this afternoon I must report to him, and I can’t think of anything I am best at. How can I be so worthless?”

“Worthless,” Jane scoffed. “You are the least worthless royal I have encountered in all of my days. “Worthless -pffishh. No, my dear lady, what you are, actually, is worth your weight in gold. You are a gem.”

“WHaaaat? What do you mean?” Maribeth sniffed and rubbed her tears on her sleeve.

“My lady, your gift is your heart. You show others compassion and caring every chance you get. No creature, be it butterfly or maid, is unworthy of your attention. You make life easier for everyone around you, every single day. You have a healing touch and a compassionate soul. Your gift, dearest m’lady Maribeth, is the gift of love.”

Maribeth stared at her, wide-eyed. “But, Jane, surely others are no different from me. I need to find something I am the best at in the world. The things you have mentioned are so easy to do, anyone could do those things.”

“Anyone could, my lady, but not everyone does. Go tell your father I said these things, and he will recognize them in you, too. Your father is a good king because he has good leadership skills. As queen, one day, you will be an equally good leader because you are so well-loved.”

Maribeth gave Jane a quick kiss on the cheek and thanked her for her insight. With her head held high, her heart bursting with humble pride, she went to find her father.

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As you now probably realize, Maribeth finds joy in making the most of everyone else's moments. Do you think her father will consider this a worthy talent?

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If you are needing some writing inspiration or want a place to publish your own work, I highly recommend checking out the website Medium and the thought-provoking “Ask Yourself Empowering Questions” writer’s challenge. See details here.

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Links to some of my other writing challenge responses:

Prompt #1: What Does it Mean to Be Human? Why are we all suspended on the side of a spinning ball in a vast universe?

Prompt #2: What experience do I want to create now? Is a Bountiful Harvest Still Within Reach?

Prompt #3: What is your worst flaw and why are you keeping it? Why Would Anyone Refuse to Give Up Their Worst Flaw? 



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