Great to meet so many of you on Tuesday! Below is the text to Throw it in the Fire. Feel free to use the story and activity in your classrooms now or in the future. I’ve had students choose four character traits they value as their stones. Leave a comment below if you can think of another application of the story and activity.
If you weren’t around on Tuesday, the story below is the centerpiece of a getting to know you activity. Before reading the story aloud, ask students to write four character traits they value on 4 small cards. Read the story aloud, and, when the protagonist throws a stone in the fire, prompt students to give up one of their cards (by throwing it in a metaphorical/invisible fire in the center of the circle). At the end of the story, they’ll have one card left. Students then discuss in small groups how they decided which character trait to keep and which to let go.
Throw it in the Fire
In a time not long ago and a place not far away, lived a child who was to go on a long and difficult journey. Her grandmother advised her on the eve of her departure: “Child, take with you and keep close what you value. Keep your eyes on the horizon, and remember that who you are is a choice.”
The child thought carefully about her grandmother’s advice. As she sifted through her belongings in the faint light of her bedroom, she realized she could not bring her belongings with her in her knapsack. She had to bring with her what she valued most in herself: otherwise, even a journey of a great distance would not be worth the first step’s effort. The child stole out into the night and collected four smooth, gray stones to represent the values she holds most dear. She vowed to keep these close wherever she may trek. She slipped them into her knapsack and continued to prepare for the journey ahead.
As she set out the following morning, the child looked out onto the horizon. Its blurry colors spread out across the wide and distant lands she would travel. She marched forward with resolve, for she remembered what she had chosen to bring in her knapsack. She marched from morning until evening never losing sight of the horizon. Just as the sunlight began to dissolve into the hills and the moon began its climb into the sky, the child came to a bridge. A guard stood by and said to the child, “Child, this bridge is old and unstable and likely to break. You will be too heavy if you bring everything you packed. Choose one stone from your knapsack and throw it in the fire. Only then will you be able to cross.”
The child gazed into a small fire burning nearby and thought hard about the stones in her knapsack. At last, she chose one and threw it in the fire. The guard permitted her to continue her journey and wished her well.
The following morning, the child looked out onto the horizon. She felt tired and weak from her journey but knew she must march forward. As she set out, she noticed mountains and canyons up ahead. The child did not waver in her resolve. She walked all day and into the night until she came upon a canyon. The canyon was wide and deep and red with a river gushing ominously below. At the canyon stood a guard who said, “Child, the only way to cross is to leap over this canyon, but I’m afraid you cannot bring all that is in your knapsack. It will be too heavy. Choose one stone from your knapsack and throw it in the fire. Only then will you be able to cross.”
The child gazed into a small fire burning nearby and thought hard about the stones in her knapsack. At last, she chose one and threw it in the fire. The guard permitted her to continue her journey and wished her well as she leapt the great and exquisite distance over the canyon.
Undeterred, the child awoke the following morning to continue her journey. She had only two stones left in her knapsack. She remembered what her grandmother told her: she must keep close what she values. She clutched her knapsack as she marched on. She looked out onto the mountainous horizon; the peaks and jags disrupted the soft pastels of the sunrise. The child was unafraid. Many hours passed, and the child came upon a volcano. Weary and shivering from her long journey, the child—unable to see the horizon beyond—bowed her head in defeat.
As she heaved and sobbed at the foot of the menacing formation, the child noticed an eagle perched near her feet. The bird spoke: “Child, you have come a great distance but now feel overpowered. I will help you. I can carry you over the mountain for I am strong and I know the way. You cannot bring all that is in your knapsack. It will be too heavy. Choose one stone from your knapsack and throw it in the fire. Only then will you be able to cross.”
The child gazed into a small fire burning nearby and thought hard about the stones that remained in her knapsack. She shuttered to think of throwing another in the fire. At last, she chose one and threw it in.
“Child, who we are is never an easy choice, but you have done well. Climb on my back, and we will surmount this final obstacle.” The child hesitantly climbed on the bird’s back. She tucked her knapsack with its one precious stone into her fist. As the majestic bird took off over the volcano, the child could see the horizon unfold endlessly before her.