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 Keeping Promises

High in the hills of Haiti there lived a poor farmer and his good wife.  Every day he went out to his field to tend the crop that grew between the stones so that his wife and twelve children might eat.

Then, one day, the poor farmer came in from his fields just as the sun was setting.  There was his wife blocking the passageway. She held the baby in one arm and a cooking spoon in the other.  And she knit her brow, looked him straight in the eye, and said, “My Good Man!”

Now, the farmer knew what that meant.  But his worry was not how they would feed a thirteenth child, but how they would find someone to be Godparent. For a Godparent would bring gifts at the Baptism.  And they had already asked all their neighbors for their other children. And their neighbors were as poor as they were.

The next morning the farmer walked slowly to his field, still wondering who to ask.  He worked for a couple of hours, and then saw someone walking over the hill towards him. 

The stranger was a heavy-set man with a full white beard.  He wore a white linen suit topped with a fine white Panama hat.  He tipped his hat to the farmer, and they struck up a conversation.  Suddenly the man said, “I’ll be Godparent.”

Now the farmer was surprised.  How did this man know about the child?  And now that he had someone to be Godparent, the farmer was no longer so desperate.  Why, just who was the stranger, anyway?

“I am God,” said the white-bearded man.  But the farmer said, “I don’t want you as Godparent.  You give much to the rich, and little to the poor.” So God tipped his hat, smiled, and walked away.

The poor farmer worked until the sun blazed hot and bright at Noonday.  Then he saw a second traveler walking through his field: A tall man in a black suit with a neatly trimmed beard.  He said “I’ll be Godparent.” The farmer was quick to ask: “And who are you?”

With a wicked laugh the man said, “You know who I am.” And indeed the poor farmer did.  But to his own surprise, he said, “I don’t want you either: You’re always making promises of happiness, pleasure, and wealth.  And in the end, you never deliver.” The stranger snarled, there was a puff of smoke, and he was gone.

Just as the sun began to set, a tall skinny man came over the crest.  He had no beard, and no hair. He grinned a toothless grin and said, “I’ll be Godparent. And don’t bother asking who I am.  For I am Death.”

The poor farmer trembled and said, “Yes, you may be Godparent to my child. For you treat the rich and poor equally.  And in the end, you always keep your promise.”