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A boy wants a fish and William Penn wants land. What will they give?

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

The Questions

A farmer asked, “What would you like to have, young man?”

“Fish,” he replied.

“Young man,” laughed the farmer,

“You’re sort of a fool!

You’ll never catch fish

In Mc Elligot’s Pool!”

…With your worms and your wishes,

You’d grow a long beard

Long before you’d catch fishes!”

“Hmmm…” answered Marco,

“It may be you’re right.

I’ve been here three hours

Without one single bite.

There might be no fish…

“…But again,

Well, there might!”

“Cause you never can tell

What goes on down below!”

This pool might be bigger

Than you or I know!”

So said Dr. Seuss.

I like that fisherman.  The fisherman wanted fish, was willing to do what was necessary, and knew there might be surprises. He is like many people in American history and the Bible about whom I have been writing.  I was curious to compare them to Americans around me. I began to ask as I read and talked to people, “What would you like to be given?  What would you like to give?

William  Penn asked King Charles II of England, “May I have land in the New World?”  He wanted land for people who yearned to live with religious freedom.  He received almost twenty-nine million acres.

Patrick Henry declared passionately, “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!”  His answer sent troops to fight in the American Revolutionary War.

Jackie Robinson told Branch Rickey, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, “I would like to play on this team, even if it is an all-white team.”  His answer shattered barriers in major league baseball.

Harriet Tubman, Underground Railroad conductor, Civil War spy, scout, cook, and nurse, said, “I want freedom for my people!”  Students across the United States yearly are inspired by her courage.

Queen Vashti, of biblical fame, refused a king’s request, because she wanted “the right as queen to not be stared at by drunken men, just for their pleasure.”  She lost her title, but lives in history as a woman who refused to be stripped of personal dignity.

King Solomon requested of God, “I’m like a child crawling, not yet able to walk.  Please give me knowledge and understanding.”  People travelled to witness his wisdom.

Tim, a high school senior, said, “Dad, I need a better reason to go to college.  This subject of school and money is getting to me.  Do you remember when I was in second grade that we read a book together about Benjamin Franklin’s curiosity?  Dad, I want to keep my curiosity.”

Ely Parker, brilliant American Seneca Indian, declared, “Give me opportunity, or I deny who I am!”  He gave as general and engineer in the Civil War, and often by refusing to give up.

 Abigail Adams, First Lady in the United States, lived her request, “I want no person to be without a voice.”

Then there are answers, which I received from Americans living now. There was nothing scientific about my sampling.  However, I did refuse to put words into people’s mouths. I asked only the question, “What would you like to be given?”

A second grade teacher answered, “I want respect.”  A Human Resources Specialist replied, “I already pretty much have what I want.”

A high school senior paused and said, “I want to succeed and not to fail.”

A college freshman said quietly, “I do need respect.  I have it and I need it.”

A twenty-five year old cyber operations technician shared, “I feel content.  There’s nothing monetary I want.  If I had to pick something it would be—I don’t know—to go to heaven when my time’s done.”  A woman, who’s worked in seven countries of extreme needs, said, “I want to take each step through Jesus Christ.  That’s my longing.”

I’m sure we could hit the streets and find greatly different answers, but I am glad people ask and answer questions of hope.

This is Barbara Steiner privileged to have listened.  Please check out

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