liirning A Shortcoming Into An Opportunity
K'tonton walked along a lane
between high stone walls. The
smile, which had been growing
wider and wider since the day he
arrived in Israel, had suddenly
disappeared. A frown puckered his
forehead. At whom was he
frowning? At himself.
"Here I am," he thought,
"come at last to the Land of Israel.
All around me is work waiting to be
done, stones to gather, rocks to
crush, swamps to drain, deserts to
water, forests to plant, houses to
build. I should have been a giant.
And what am I? A K'tonton!"
He squinted his eyes upward,
then glanced down.
"Four inches from his head to
toe," he said in disgust. "What can
I do with four inches?"
At that moment K'tonton
noticed a donkey. It was hitched to
an oil cart near a gate in the stone
wall. While its master was in the
houses delivering the oil, the
donkey cropped the weeds that
grew beside the road.
It was the weeds that caught
K'tonton's eye. They were thistles,
tall prickly thistles. How could the
donkey eat thistles without getting
the prickles in its tongue? Curiosity
made K'tonton forget his worries. If
there was one thing in K'tonton that
wasn't tiny, it was his curiosity. He
went closer to the donkey to get a
its mouth wide and brayed. Its
tongue showed clearly, dark and
hard and leathery.
This time K'tonton understood.
The donkey was saying, "You ought
to be ashamed of yourself, K'tonton,
complaining about your size. God
gave me a leathery tongue. Do I
complain? No! I use it to clear the
land of thistles. If you have no
bigness to help with, help with your
"Thank you, donkey. That's just
what I'll do," K'tonton said humbly.
He crawled out of the clump of
thistles, too excited to feel the
scratches. "I'll search," he said,
"until I find a way."
The very next day K'tonton
discovered the clinic. He hid inside
the half-opened cover of a tourist's
camera bag. When the tourist
visited the clinic, so did K'tonton.
The grownups in the clinic
waited patiently, thinking anxious
thoughts. The children wiggled and
pulled at their mothers' skirts. They
didn't like waiting. A tousle-haired
boy climbed over a bench and got a
spanking from his father. He opened
his mouth and bawled. "Ow-w-ow-!"
Two little sisters in pink starched
dresses bawled in sympathy. A
God gave me a leathery
tongue. Do I complain?
No! I use it to clear the
land of thistles. If you
have no bigness to help
with, help with your
better look. Then he remembered
that the donkey might gobble him
up along with the thistles. Not
deliberately! Donkeys are
vegetarians. But because he was so
small the donkey might gobble him
up by accident.
A bougainvillea vine, bright with
blossoms, covered the wall. K'tonton
took hold of a branch. Up and up
he climbed, then sprang lightly to
the donkey's back. Running the
length of its back was easy.
FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 1989
Climbing downhill along its bent
back was harder, but K'tonton made
it. By kneeling between its long ears
and leaning forward, he could look
straight down the donkey's nose to
its mouth. K'tonton watched intently
as the tongue came out. It was hard
"So that's why you can eat
thistles! You have a leather tongue."
K'tonton laughed aloud, pleased
with himself for having solved the
Maybe it was the laughter that
startled the donkey. Maybe K'tonton
had stepped on a ticklish place
between its ears. Suddenly it lifted
its head and opened its jaws wide.
Out came a squeaking hee, followed
by a tremendous HAW — a giant
haw, an earth-shaking — at least a
K'tonton-shaking — HAW. K'tonton
tumbled down among the thistles.
"And my skin isn't leathery," he
thought, as the thistles pricked and
scratched his cheeks.
A second hee-HAW followed.
This one had a reproachful sound.
The donkey was looking directly at
K'tonton. It seemed to be talking to
"Maybe the donkey is talking to
me," K'tonton thought, "the way the
donkey talked to Balaam in the
Bible. The Bible says it spoke, but it
doesn't say what language it spoke.
Maybe it was donkey language.
Maybe this donkey has a message
A third time the donkey opened
baby, frightened by the noise, began
crying. A little Arab girl, bangles on
her forehead, looked as if she were
going to cry too. So did a sad-eyed
boy with side curls peeking out
beneath a bandage on his head. All
the children began crying.
A pretty nurse in a ponytail
hurried in, but she couldn't stop
them. The fathers and mothers
couldn't stop them.
Suddenly, the children stopped
by themselves. The tousle-haired
boy, who had started the trouble,
began laughing instead of crying.
The sad-eyed boy with the
bandaged head smiled. The Arab
girl put her hand to her mouth —
the good hand that wasn't in a sling
— and stared, her eyes under the
bangles full of wonder. The sisters
in the pink starched dresses