The Parable Of The Blues In Green City

Green City came by its name with literal honesty.  In Green City, no matter who you were, how much you made, or where you came from, you dressed in green, your skin looked green, you ate only green foods, and all of your possessions, from the least to the greatest, was green.  The streets were paved with green, in the morning the sun rose over the city shining a hue of bright leaf green and set in the evening with a hue of fading, emerald green.  Forget the old Kermit the Frog song: in Green City, it was easy being green, and it was imperative to be green if you wanted to live there.

Folks from all over the world would come to visit Green City, to gawk at the deep greenness of the place and its people.  You might say that some folks became green with envy over how green Green City was, how everyone lived a completely, perfectly green life.  The Greens of Green City would grin with pride – some say they would green with pride – thank their guests, then send them graciously yet firmly on their way.  To be green in Green City was not a voluntary  matter of personal affiliation, it was a communal inheritance sunk into the skin and skeletons of its residents; anyone who was not green learned quickly that it was a great green place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there, and in fact, you probably couldn’t  even if you wanted to.

When the Blue family arrived in the town square one evening, some folks went a bit green about the gills. Though ragged-grey after running from ruffians and rulers who reviled them, the Blues dressed, ate, looked and lived blueness.  Father, mother and their five children opened the door of their blue truck, pulled out every last blue item they owned, and without the benefit of four walls or a roof over their heads, set up their blue camp for the night.

“Everything here is green, but we’re blue,” said the kids to their parents.  “How are we going to survive?”

“Don’t worry,” replied Mr. and Mrs. Blue.  “Remember that, even though we’re all blue, each of us inherited green eyes.  When the Greens of Green City look us straight in the eye, as good people should do, they’ll see that we’re different from them and that we’re also the same.”

And surely, that is what happened.  Day after day, as the folks of Green City  ventured into the square to gawk furtively at the blue strangers, they whispered to each other, “How strange these Blues look!”  Afraid at first to gaze at the new strangers’ blue faces, the folks of Green City gradually gave up resisting.  They started looking in the Blue family’s eyes…and in them they saw a fine, sparkling shimmer of green.

Soon, every Green City resident who took the time and the small risk to look one of the Blues in the eye was remarking about what was, in fact, most unremarkable:  that we are all different and all the same.  Every resident of Green City got to look in their eyes and began to know the Blues…every resident except for one man, Red, who refused to look at them.

“Blue people with green eyes?  Nonsense!  I’m sure they just colored them so they could fool the rest of us into letting them stay here, eat our food, drink our water, and take from us what belongs to us.  One day, I’ll show everyone how phony those green-eyed Blues are!”

As Red stewed in a boiling juice of his own dark green rage, the Blues set about building a house in the middle of the town Square of Green City.  They asked little of their green neighbors, who were at first nervous, but were now growing to like the Blue family.

“Would you like some building materials to put up your new house?” passersby would ask Mr. and Mrs. Blue.

“No thanks,” they would reply.  “We brought special materials from Blue country to make our kind of house.  But, could we trouble you for some water to drink, maybe a blanket or two in which to sleep, until we’re all set up here?”

“Sure,” said the Green City folks, eager to help.

As the days passed by, the Blue family’s house was beginning to take shape, as were their friendships with the Greens who came by to watch their dream become a home.  When you build something, you inevitably discard or set aside things that you can’t use or that you can’t use right away.   A fine pile of old pieces of lovely blue wood, piping, paint, slate, wires and other building items began to grow as high, and five times as wide, as the house frame itself.  Soon enough, folks from Green City who needed help building their own shelters discarded their green purity and pride, as they approached the Blues in search of things in the pile that could help them.

“Say, Mr. Blue, I could really use that wood over there.  My walls are rotting, and the wood would make a difference.”

“Sure thing.  Help yourself.”

“Mrs. Blue, do you mind if I take some of that slate for the hole in my roof?  My house is freezing cold and my kids are getting sick.”

“By all means.  Take what you need to fix your roof.”

By the time months had passed by and the Blues had completed their beautiful new blue home, the discard pile had been picked clean by the folks of Green City.  The Blues knew what it was like not to have a home, so when a Green City citizen came by looking for something to take from the discard pile, they never said no.

The house was finished, the Blues moved in, and the blue and green colors on the square danced off each other to form a faint but beautiful yellow.  Everyone seemed happy, everyone except for Red, who was angrier than ever.

“Great, these Blues grab our green land, use the resources of Green City, take advantage of our good green graciousness, and what do we get for all our troubles:  a disgusting pallor of yellow hanging over the whole town.  I’ll show those green-eyed Blues!”

Red marched onto the Blues’ property and bellowed, “Blues?  Get out here now!  I want to talk to you.”

Tentatively, Mr. and Mrs. Blue and their kids came out the front door.

“How can we help you, Mr. Red?” they asked.

“Your eyes aren’t really green,” he spewed at them.

Taken aback, the Blues asked him, “Mr. Red, what do you mean?  We’re blue, but you may rest assured that our eyes are green.  Why, this has been the case in our family for generations…”

Before they could get out another word, Red punched Mr. Blue in the eyes, and indeed, at that moment that blood poured from them, they were not green.

As Mr. Blue writhed on the ground in agony, Red snickered, “See, I told everyone you were phonies.”

As he walked away from the Blues’ new home, Red lit an oil-soaked rag, threw the fiery torch on the house, and burned it to the ground.  Blue smoke, like dreams denied, flew into the air, choked everyone’s lungs and disappeared into the dark night sky which was ablaze with an evil brightness.

The next morning, everything for which the Blues had worked and hoped was grey and black cinder.

“Come,” Mrs. Blue said to her husband and her children, “There is nothing left for us here.  Get in the truck and let’s drive away from Green City as fast as we can.”

No sooner had they packed up the remains of their belongings and closed the truck doors, than they saw in the near distance a long line of Green City folks snaking all the way from the edge of the city to just outside the town square. The line was marching toward them.  As it came closer and closer, the Blue family noticed that each Green in the long line was carrying something:

A plank of wood, a piece of slate, a copper tube, a carpet fragment, a spool of wire, a can of paint: a hundred thousand bits and pieces, originally from the Blues’ discard pile, that the Green City folks had taken to build and fix and secure their own homes so many weeks and months before.

“Don’t go,” the mayor of Green City pleaded with Mr. and Mrs. Blue.  “We can’t turn back the clock to stop Red from doing what he did, but we can give back in kind what you gave us, by returning the kindness you showed us all.”

With that, the Blue family stepped out of their truck and proceeded to rebuild their house, surrounded by the people of Green City.

About the Author
Dan Ornstein is rabbi at Congregation Ohav Shalom and a writer living in Albany, NY. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Cain v. Abel: A Jewish Courtroom Drama, which will be published by the Jewish Publication Society in 2019.