An old man was walking by when he heard the voices of two young men. He pursued the sound and called out to them just as they were about to enter a cave.
They turned and waved.
“Hello, sir!” called the oldest of the two, no more than 30 years of age. He shook the old man’s hand and his eyes were alit with adventure. The youngest, a mere 18-year-old, stood back, impatient to continue traveling.
After all, the old man was slow going, with a cane and unconcerned with the passing of time, surely he would hold them back, and they wouldn’t make it to their destination.
“Where are you boys heading?” asked the old man.
“We have heard a tale about a magician who lives at the top of a cliff some distance away, if you can make it there before nightfall, he will grant you a wish, but only one.” The oldest smirked at his young friend, “no matter who is with you, after one wish has been made, he will disappear from sight, and you won’t find him again for some time.”
“I see,” said the old man in interest, “what is it that you hope to gain?”
The young men hesitated, not wanting to disclose such information to a stranger. At last, the oldest said, “I want a wife, I’m at the age where I want to start a family and begin a new adventure as a husband and someday, a parent.”
The youngest quietly said, “I want to know my purpose, why I am here, what I’m supposed to do….that’s all.” He glanced at his feet shyly.
The old man smiled, “great wishes, very wise. Is it alright if I come with you? As you can see I am old and nearing the end of my journey. The adventure you are going on may just make me feel young again.”
The 30-year-old shrugged, “fine by me, I understand.” meanwhile the youngest frowned but nodded anyway.
The journey was long and harrowing. There were many obstacles and times when everyone had to face their fears. The cave was dark, the forest eerie, the open fields never-ending, but finally the steep cliff stood before them.
They formed a circle at its base. “We made it, and the sun is just setting, we should storm up it as fast as we can!” The youngest said, his face red with sweat pouring down his brow.
The 30-year-old nodded, “okay, but we should still be careful, nothing is more important than staying alive, wishes or not.”
The old man smiled at them, “you can take your path or you can follow me, I am going around the cliff and finding an easier route to the top.”
The young men laughed, “that could take ages, and we don’t have enough time for that. Plus, if we go together, only one of us can make a wish and I don’t want to decide, so whoever makes it to the top first will get his wish fair and square.”
They shook hands and parted, each with their own plan in mind. The youngest made for a good start, but he exhausted himself and slipped, fracturing his ankle. His friend saw him trip and cautiously climbed toward him, offering him a hand. From there they both climbed together as a team.
In his heart, the youngest had decided that his friend deserved the wish, but kept his decision to himself for the time being.
The 30-year old, though at first annoyed, now felt sorry for the younger and knew that he wanted the wish more than himself, so he decided that at the top he would give the wish to him.
Once they made it to the top, the sun was just dipping over the horizon and an old weathered hand reached down for theirs, they accepted gratefully as the old man pulled them up. The young men shook their heads in disbelief, “you won old man, the wish is rightfully yours.”
The youngest finally shook the old man’s hand respectfully, “you were wise and I was foolish, make your wish to the magician.”
They turned and saw not a magician but an image. A vision of both the young men, the oldest married with children in his arms, the young man a doctor in a mission field, reading a bible. The old man was nowhere to be seen in the image, they turned and looked at him in confusion, the old man smiled and tears rolled down his face.
“I already made my wish, and that is that your wishes would come true.”
The young men stared at him in shock and wonder, “why?” was all they could ask.
“I am old, and my time here is almost up, there is nothing I could want for myself, and everything that I want for others. I want you to have everything I couldn’t have. You see I never married, never had children of my own, and I went nearly my whole life without knowing my purpose, until now.”
He looked over the cliff at the clouds and earth, too beautiful to behold. “I wasted so much time, and I hope this small thing will make up for some of it…now I guess my wish is to simply go home.”
To the young men’s further amazement the magician, whoever and wherever he was granted two wishes that day…the old man disappeared from their very eyes and both knew that he was home.
Later, as they stood at the base of the cliff, the moon shining and stars filling the night sky, the youngest asked, “if you could make one more wish what would it be?”
His friend smiled, “that I wouldn’t take a single thing for granted…including you.” He threw his arm around him and together they traveled back to the beginning, forever changed.
What is your one wish?