How the Donkey Got its Cross

by Frank Thomas Smith


Donkeys are stubborn, all of them, but some are more stubborn than others. Mine is the most stubborn one I know. If you want him to walk, he stands still. If you want him to stand still, he walks. If you want him to work, he sleeps or pretends to sleep. If you want him to sleep...but no, who would want him to sleep? But if you did want him to, he would surely stay awake all night.

Nevertheless, I love my donkey very much because he's a good friend, doesn't lie and doesn't hurt anyone. And he's always willing to take me on his back to the teacher's house and he waits all morning until I leave and takes me home. Some of the kids have ponies, but none of them rides a donkey because, as I said, they are very stubborn.

My donkey doesn't let anyone but me on his back and if you forced him to do so, he wouldn't move a step forward. You could push him, beat him, beg him; he wouldn't move. He won't let anyone else lead him either.

One night I dreamed about him. He was tied to a tree on the road that leads to the teacher's house and we were waiting there, I don't know for what. Then I saw two men approach. They looked at the donkey and seemed pleased to see him. They untied his rope and led him away. The donkey went with them without even protesting. I didn't protest either and I followed them at a safe distance. My dream ended there, interrupted by the cock crowing.

I got up and went with my donkey along the same road that appeared in my dream. When we reached the tree I tied the donkey and sat down to wait.

We waited a long time and nobody passed by, not even another donkey, because it was Saturday and nobody had to work or go to school. Just when I was beginning to think that my dream wasn't true, I saw two men approaching. They greeted me and one of them asked if they could borrow my donkey. I said yes and followed them, just like in the dream. They went up a hill where a small group of people was waiting for them. A woman placed a blue cloak over the donkey's back and a man mounted him. He was young, lean, and taller than the rest.

The two men held the donkey on both sides, but I was afraid he wouldn't move, being so stubborn, and I wanted to help that tall man because...well, I don't really know why. I ran up to them and stood in front of the donkey. The man looked at me, smiled, and handed me the donkey's rope.

"Let's go," he said.

The two men stepped aside and we went forward, with me leading the donkey and the tall man sitting on its back.

"Hosanna!" someone shouted and the others cried: "bravo!" The man didn't say anything. Neither did I.

We went downhill over a rocky, zigzagging path. We passed through several villages, where the people applauded and shouted encouragement. Many joined us and soon a large group accompanied us, noisy and disorderly, but happy.

Finally we reached the city and now a great crowd followed us, noisier than ever. They shouted like crazy, but not all in favor. Someone yelled: "Impostor!" and threw a stone that hit the donkey's flank. The man leaned forward and stroked its neck. I wasn't afraid because he was calm, very calm. At first I thought he must be a teacher, but his beard was short and the teachers always have long beards which they never cut. All I knew was that I was very glad to be able to help that man.

The road led to the temple, where the man dismounted and went in, followed by the crowd. Only the donkey, a woman and I remained outside. She seemed worried, but she smiled as she approached us. She stroked the donkey's neck for a while, then she turned to me and said, "Thank you." I asked her who the man was that rode on my donkey's back.

"My son, Yeshua*," she said. That didn't mean anything to me, for there were many Yeshuas. Then she smiled again and said, "The sun is very strong. It would be best if you went home now." She touched my cheek, turned and walked away down one of the city's narrow streets. She was right about the sun, which was like a great ball of fire directly over my head, so we headed for home.

When we reached the tree I decided to ride, because I was suddenly very tired. Until then I had walked because for some reason I didn't dare to sit on the donkey's back so soon after Yeshua had.

When I put my hand on my donkey's back, I saw that a white cross was drawn on it. A vertical line extended from his neck to his tail and it was crossed from shoulder to shoulder. I traced the lines with my finger to prove that they were real. Then I mounted and felt very happy because - well, I don't really know why.

Since that time donkeys have crosses on their backs. But they aren't any less stubborn, that's for sure.


*Yeshua = Jesus in Hebrew