The Words of the Weber Family
This is a story about a very valuable toy soldier. From a worldly standpoint it was indeed valuable. It was over 100 years old and was very finely handcrafted out of the most select hardwood money could buy. It was dressed in a beautiful red uniform and a tall soldier's hat.
One day an art collector spotted the toy soldier standing in the window of an antique store. He admired it, so he went in and paid the store owner $300 for it. (Like I said, it was very valuable.) He took it home, put it in a beautiful glass case, and stood it on a pedestal in the middle of a huge room filled with many other works of art. After admiring the toy soldier for a few minutes, the art collector left and went to work in the city.
After a long while, the door slowly creaked open, and in walked the art collector's eight-year-old son. The little boy liked to come up and look at the paintings and statues. But now his attention was attracted to something new in the center of the room: the toy soldier! The little boy walked over to it and looked up. "Gosh!" he said. "I didn't know Daddy liked to play with toys!"
The boy walked around the glass case. He noticed that the toy soldier's hat was on crooked. Carefully he reached up, picked up the glass case, and set it on the floor. He straightened the toy soldier's hat and smoothed its clothing. Then he put the soldier back in the case.
After that, the little boy came up to the art room and looked at the toy soldier every day. One day he realized that the toy soldier looked very lonely. So, lifting up the glass case and setting it on the floor, the boy took the toy soldier in his arms, talked to it, and held it close to him...
Every day the little boy would take the toy soldier in his arms. He would walk around the art room and show it the different works of art. He would tell it stories about each painting and sculpture, making up adventures of far-off lands. At the end of each day, he would put the toy soldier back in its glass case. He didn't want his father to know he had been playing with it.
One day while the little boy was playing, he heard the door open downstairs, and his father called up, "Hello, son! I got off work early today! I came home so I could spend the day with you!"
The little boy heard his father walking up the stairs toward the art room. He had been playing with the toy soldier far from where the glass case was. Frightened, he started running across the room. Suddenly he tripped and fell and the toy soldier went tumbling across the floor. The little boy got to his feet; but now his father stood in the doorway of the room. The father looked down at the toy soldier, and then he looked at his son.
"I told you never to touch anything in here!" he said sternly. "Go to your room!"
But I wasn't hurting the toy soldier," cried the boy. "I was only giving it love."
"Go to your room!" said the man. So the boy left.
The father picked up the toy soldier and put it back in the case.
A little later, the boy left to take a train to summer camp. When the boy was gone, the art collector went upstairs and stood in the hall next to the art room, still angry about his son's misbehavior. "I hope at the camp he will learn how to treat valuable things!" he said.
But the art collector's attention was suddenly attracted by a tapping sound. It had been going on for some time; but he had not noticed it. Now he looked around to see where the sound was coming from.
Slowly he opened the door to the art room, and the tapping grew louder and more impatient! He looked at the glass case and gasped in amazement.
The toy soldier was alive, and it was beating on the inside of the glass case. "Little boy!" it cried. "Little boy! Please come back!" As the toy soldier beat on the glass case, it began to rock back and forth. "Little boy! Please come back!"
The glass case fell forward and smashed on the floor. The toy soldier got up and ran through the art collector's legs and down the stairs. There it began beating on the front door. "Little boy!" it cried. "Please come back! I love you!"
The art collector ran down the stairs and picked up the toy soldier. In amazement he saw that it was crying--real tears!
The man looked at the front door where his son had been only a few minutes before. Clutching the toy soldier, he ran outside and got into his car. He had to reach the train before it left the station! Frantically he drove off.
The train was just beginning to pull out of the station when the art collector drove up. Holding tightly to the toy soldier, he got out of the car and started running after the train. Just as he was about to give up the chase, he managed to grab hold of the train and pull himself on board. He searched throughout the entire train and finally found his son looking sadly out of a window.
"Here," said the art collector, sitting down next to the boy. "The toy soldier isn't mine. It isn't as truly valuable to me as it is to you. It belongs to you, because you love it more!"
So it was that an art collector and his son learned that the true value of something is determined not by its price or by anything external but by how much love you give to it.