This has been a banner week. Monday was a very busy day. I was up at 7 am and aside from an hour and a half nap I continued on with a rather busy schedule until 9 pm. Included in Monday’s activity log were three shopping trips, two sit down restaurant meals and a doctor’s appointment. Tuesday I breezed through my infusion and came home, walked the dogs, did a load of laundry, made soup, sent out emails, made several phone calls and did paper work . Wednesday I began prepping for a dinner party. Thursday I finished making dinner from scratch for five (it was delicious by the way). We enjoyed a nice evening of games and conversation. Friday I went through another infusion, and then walked the dogs, went to the library, sent  a few emails, and then still had the energy to whip up some spaghetti with garlic bread. For a person who spent the last several years struggling to pour her own cereal this week has been truly miraculous.

Several people have made the assumption that I must be deliriously happy after this week. The fact is – I’m not.  I am not any happier than I already was. I am just as happy and as joyful to be alive as I was years ago. I strive everyday to be a happy person – Ampligen with its attendant ups and downs has not changed that. When I was young I spent quite a bit of time wishing I had something else to deal with besides this disease. My wish was granted. I developed other problems and still retained this disease. My mother, cheerfully suggested that though circumstances might not ever change for me I could move forward with life in small ways. I could be happy even when I felt like I was on my deathbed. Naturally, I laughed at the absurdity of her ideas. However, mom was right. It took me years of practise and many, many failures, but I finally learned how to be happy despite my circumstances.    

It has been many, many years since I first heard this story. I extend my apologies to those of you more familiar with the origins and telling of this story for not having a better memory of such a gem. 

A long time ago there was a small, poor village in a valley ringed by mountains. The people of the little village in the valley worked very hard and spent long hours trying to eek a living out of the dry, arid ground. One day a stranger came into the valley. He was dressed in beautiful clothes and fine shoes. The stranger saw the calloused hands and tired faces of the people and began to laugh at them.

“Why do you work so hard? There is a wishing tree just on the other side of the mountain. You could all have everything you want without all this hard labor! I have travelled much through the land and know many villages that are much grander than yours. My village is not very far from here, yet we have new, paved roads and beautiful schools and fine houses. ”

The man laughed and laughed. The more he laughed the more ashamed some of the villagers became. They saw their thatched huts and ragged clothes and shoeless children.

The stranger left the little valley and his laughter echoed through the hills as he made his way to his fine village with paved roads and beautiful schools and fine houses. That same evening a village council was called. It was finally decided that in the morning they would all leave the valley to find the wishing tree. 

Before dawn the next morning, the villagers assembled and began to climb the mountains and narrow passes that lead out of the valley. Among those unable to keep up with the main village group was a young boy with a crippled leg. He crawled and hopped and dragged his body over the rough rocks. All he could think of was getting to that wishing tree. He knew what he would wish for. He would wish that his crippled leg would be healed and then he would be happy. It took the boy many hours to climb up and down the mountain pass. 

Meanwhile, the villagers had reached the wishing tree. There was a tumbled down hut a short distance from the tree and an old woman sitting outside weaving. The villagers were concerned that this might be her wishing tree, but she said that the wishing tree did not belong to anyone in particular. She warned them though, that the wishing tree was dangerous. The villagers ignored the old woman’s warnings. The villagers circled the tree and began to wish. Every wish was instantly granted.

The crippled boy arrived at the tree and ignored the old woman completely. He tried to find an empty space so that he could squeeze in and wish on The wishing tree. There was none. Despondent, the boy began to sob.  After a good, long cry the boy picked himself up and finally noticed the old woman. He tearfully went towards her and began to explain his situation. She held up her hand and bade him be silent.

“I warned the people you now see standing around the tree to not wish upon it, but they did not listen to me. You should count yourself blessed that you are not among them. They will not be happy. Watch them and tell me what you see.”

The crippled boy watched. The children wished for toys and candy. Every wish was granted, but it also came with its opposite. So, while the children wished for toys to amuse themselves they also experienced profound boredom. The candy gave them terrible stomach-aches. Yet, they wished for bigger toys and better candy. This rewarded them with more boredom and worse stomach-aches.

The adults did not fare much better. They wished for wealth and beauty and power. They received those things, but they also received greed and jealousy and anger.

The crippled boy looked on as wish after wish brought more and more misery to the people who were once happy.

Turning to face the old woman, he asked, “What am I to do?”

 She responded, “They have made their choice. What will you choose?” 

The boy thought. Finally in a quiet voice he said, “I was happy before the stranger came to my village. I will be happy still.”

The old woman smiled and sent the boy off to work in her fields. The work was hard and hot. The days were long. At the close of each day the boy returned to the old woman’s hut and they shared a simple meal. Many years passed and though the old woman never grew any older, the villagers surrounding the tree grew up, grew old and died utterly miserable surrounded by everything they ever wished for. 

 Travellers who passed by the strange scene noted the profound sorrow of those who ringed the tree and compared it to the profound joy of the crippled boy – now grown into a crippled man. The crippled man told and retold the story of his village. He always ended by saying what he had learned from the old woman. That happiness comes from within. “I was happy before the stranger came to my village. I am happy still.”  

I was happy before the Ampligen and I am happy still.

Sophie

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