Once upon a time a young man named Jide married a young woman named Bimbo. At first they were very happy, and when they gave birth to a son, their joy overflowed.
However, their joy soon turned to anxiety, as they hoped to give their son all they could, and they worried that they would never have enough to provide the kind of life they wanted their child to have.
“Our yams are not as large as our neighbors’ yams,” Bimbo said as she worked in the farm. “We barely have enough to eat, and all of our vegetables are so small.”
She began to prepare meals of leftovers only. “Don’t finish all the food,” she cautioned Jide. “If we eat all we have, we may not have enough in the future. Remember inflation has made food price to go up.”
Jide started to save, and he stopped inviting friends to visit. “If they come, they may drink all our tea,” Jide said.
They did visit others’ homes, and there they ate greedily. When they returned home they looked at their meager belongings and despaired.
“We don’t have as much as others have,” Bimbo complained. Jide agreed, and the couple became even more frugal. Soon everyone understood that in this little house there lived the most miserly people in the village, and no one ever stopped by to visit.
Then one beautiful spring morning Jide heard a knock on their door. “Who could that be?” he asked his wife.
She shrugged. “We’d better look,” she said, and they opened the door and saw a poor old man in tattered clothes, his face gray with hunger.
“Excuse me,” he said, “but this bright sun hurts my eyes, and I am so tired. I could use a comfortable house in which to rest, and yours looked inviting.”
Then he simply stepped inside, and his face lighted up. “You have saved my life by inviting me in. You are most generous.”
Jide began to panic. What if all the dust and dirt on the man’s skin and clothes soiled their home? Imagine the cost of soap they would need to clean! And what if he asked for water to drink?
Jide looked at the man. “We have so little here, I hope …” but before he could finish, the old man said, “I am glad you have enough to share.” At that moment Bimbo walked into the room.
“What are we sharing?” she asked, alarmed.
“Ah,” the old man smiled, “it is hard in these times to find people like you who are kind. I am so grateful, and now since you are so generous, I’d love something to eat. After that I’ll take a nap on your floor, and then I shall leave.”
Bimbo and Jide exchanged a look. The old man seemed to take their generosity for granted, and they could say nothing as he lay his coat upon their best rug. Bimbo could see the dirt drifting over her furniture and floor.
“Will the meal be ready soon?” the old man asked, and for some reason Bimbo simply walked into the kitchen and started preparing a meal. To her amazement, she found many cucumbers and tomatoes to chop, and then she cooked a big pot of rice, and on a tray she placed bowls of chutney and curry.
Jide watched in astonishment as Bimbo carried the tray with these savory dishes into the room and served the old man.
“You are a wonderful cook,” the old man said, “and I am so pleased by your kindness, I would like to grant you three wishes. Anything at all.”
Bimbo gasped, and Jide gave a little cry of joy. At long last their dreams would come true. “Thank you!” Jide said. “I shall let my wife have the first wish.”
Bimbo’s glance fell upon her garden, and she thought of her little cucumbers and tiny tomatoes. “I wish everything I touch would become long and large and delicious,” she said breathlessly.
Then she touched the tomatoes, and they swelled up, so fat and ripe and red that they nearly burst.
“I wish that everything I touch would turn to gold,” cried Jide, who had followed Bimbo into the garden.
“So it is done,” said the old man. Jide ran back inside and touched a broken water jug. Instantly it turned to gold.
The old man stepped forward. “Allow me,” he said, and he lifted the boy out of his cradle and held him close, so that the child stopped crying. “Now,” the old man said, “do you have a third wish?”