• Paul Cumbo

The Boy and the Tower

A little boy lived by a small stream. He spent his summer days exploring the woods, playing hide-and-seek with his friends, and hunting for crawfish under the rocks.

As the boy sat on the banks of the creek waiting for his friends one morning, he began stacking stones. He found it satisfying. Soon, he was mixing mud and gravel to make mortar. The tower took on a pleasing symmetry. His friends didn't come to play that morning, but he hardly noticed. He was focused on the tower.

At lunchtime, as he devoured peanut-butter-and-jelly and a cold glass of milk, he resolved to build the tallest tower ever. He spent the afternoon crafting his masterpiece. Sweat, mosquitoes, and chafed hands didn't slow him down. When the tower grew taller than the boy, he built a scaffold out of rocks and logs.

It was a thing of beauty, nearly twice his height. He'd found a sparkling piece of quartz to serve as the capstone. Carefully, he climbed, balancing and stretching, to place the quartz on top.

The scaffolding shifted. He lost his balance. He fell straight into the tower. It toppled into the creek.

Crestfallen, hoping no one could see him, the boy cried.

Then he heard his friend approaching. Quickly, he wiped his tears.

"Hey!" said his friend, sitting down next to him. "Cool bridge! Can I help finish it?"


I often tell this story in class and on retreats. In many ways, it's my story. But I bet it's yours, too. Maybe all of ours. Because sometimes we learn that what we thought should be a tower was supposed to be a bridge all along. Or at least that the same building materials can be used for more than one thing.

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