“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
A long time ago, in the village of Woolpit, nestled in Suffolk, England, lived a little girl with her parents on a prosperous farm. The girl was curious and kind, content to explore and wander the lush forests that surrounded her home, concocting adventures by herself. She would leave in the mornings and stay out until the sun had begun to meet the horizon and the shadows lengthened, signaling that it was time for dinner.
One day, she had been playing far away from her home, near the heart of the large forest, when she noticed that the summer’s sun had already begun to dip below the tops of the large trees which surrounded her. Fearing the punishment that she would receive if she was not home in time, the child ran through the woods, heedless of the sheer drops and embankments that littered the underbrush. It had been raining earlier in the day. The steady dripping from the canopy above made the mossy ground slick and treacherous, but the girl was too worried about her father’s stern words to concern herself with sturdy footing.
She just rounded a corner that would bring her closer to home when her feet slid out from under her, causing her to tumble down a hidden hill. Down, down, down she slid, until she came to a stop underneath a thorny outcropping. The brambles obscured her vision of the sky, and she began to panic. She feared that she would become lost in this area of forest that she had never explored before. Her imagination ran wild with fears of wolves and other creatures. Suddenly, she heard the sound of church bells reverberating through the trees. Birds stopped chirping and the twilight insects stopped their music as the bells tolled, again and again, her heart pounding with each chime.
The sound of her own heartbeat was interrupted by the brush rustling violently on the other side of the clearing. Fearing the wolves from her imagination had finally come to feast, the girl hid in the long grasses near the edge of the brambles. A few moments later, a boy and a girl of about ten years of age walked out from the shuddering bushes. They were dressed in strange, nearly ephemeral clothing, like something out of a dream. Stranger still was their skin, which was of a green hue that gave them an almost frog-like appearance. They came and huddled in the small clearing where the girl had been standing only moments ago, and spoke to one another in a strange, lilting but completely alien language.
The girl’s curiosity got the better of her, and she stood from the safety of her hiding place attempting to befriend the enigmatic siblings, but all attempts at communication proved fruitless. Neither of the emerald children could understand her, and she couldn’t understand them. Despite her frustrations, the girl still tried to speak with them when suddenly, there was a crackling sound from further up behind her. No sooner had she heard her own name being called by her father than the other two children had disappeared in the thick underbrush of the dark forest. As her father helped pull her to safety, the little girl looked behind her to see the wide and frightened eyes of the two green children visible through their hiding places.
The next day, the girl went out as she usually did, this time bringing a large lunch with her in order to share with her newfound friends. She trudged her way back to where she had fallen and found them huddled in the same clearing as before, their smiles greeting her warmly. The girl opened her basket to show them what she had brought; bread and cheese and a large pouch of green beans. The green children refused everything but the vegetables, which they reveled in, showing that the similarly colored food was a sort of delicacy.
For the rest of the summer and into autumn, the girl visited the strange children every day. She brought them food and water. She taught them English so that they could talk amongst themselves. They played and had many adventures, telling stories as the days grew shorter and the nights colder. Although the green children loved to hear about what happened in the world beyond the forest, the girl couldn’t get them to talk about where they came from or where their parents were. Eventually, she stopped asking, reluctant to frighten her new friends away.
On the day of the first snow, the girl rushed out to meet her friends as she had each day before. This time, she came with spare blankets from the stable, but they were gone. Day after day she searched for them, but it was if they had disappeared just as quickly as they had appeared. She didn’t stop looking for them, though, not even when the winter had become so ferocious that she had to stay indoors for fear of freezing to death.
It wasn’t until the next summer that she saw them again. The two children had reappeared, but this time to the parish priest of Woolpit’s modest church, telling the most astounding tale. They said that they had accidentally found themselves here from their own home, St. Martin’s Land. St. Martin's Land was an underground world where the inhabitants were as green as they were and existed in a perpetual state of twilight. They had been herding their father’s cattle when they heard a loud noise and followed it to Woolpit. It was the tolling of the church bells. They didn’t know how they had arrived in town, but they were friendly with everyone that they spoke to about it. Everyone, that is, except for the little girl who had initially befriended them in the woods.
For many years, the children lived in the village, but whenever the little girl tried to speak with them, they ignored her. As time moved on, their skin changed until they looked no different than you or me. They crafted lives for themselves, even falling in love and marrying. The friends had drifted far apart.
One day, the little girl who'd grown into a woman, found a note addressed to her by the strange siblings. It said to meet them back in the clearing in the woods where they had first met. Warily, the woman walked back to that bramble clearing to find the twins waiting for her. They were smiling, a far cry from how they had treated her all these years. The woman felt the anguish of losing their friendship melt away. They told her that before the snow had settled on the ground, they had found their way back home to their family. They had told them of her kindness and their people wished to discover if all of our world was as welcoming. In order to get a clearer picture, the children were supposed to tell everyone that they had never been to Woolpit before, allowing the people of the village to act as if they were outsiders. Would the villagers welcome them and treat them as the little girl had, or would they be forever treated as untrustworthy?
Unfortunately, the villagers shunned the children, no matter how friendly or forthcoming they were. Even as their skin changed, they would still whisper behind their backs about how different they were. The children had never known such disrespect before, but the memories of the little girl and her kindness kept them going. Finally, the time had come to return to their own mythic land and tell of what they had learned. Before they did that, they wanted to see the woman one last time and to give her a gift; the secret of the gateway to and from St. Martin’s Land, a land without hate or indifference. It was all because of her kindness so many years ago.