When Thomas first heard the story of King Midas and his magical touch, he was living in a homeless shelter for women and children. His mom, a sweet and loving person, worked two jobs, but didn’t make enough money to rent an apartment. His older sister worked part-time as a clerk in one of those stores that sold everything for a dollar or less, but even with her help, they were hurting.
The shelter wasn’t so bad because Thomas had his own bed and meals were served twice a day during the week and three times on weekends. Plus there were other kids to play with and a tutor to help with schoolwork.
While Thomas was grateful for what he did have, he yearned for more. Like Midas he wished that he could walk around touching things and have them turned into gold. Think of the joy he could bring to him mom’s face! Think of how happy she would be! And Thomas would be so proud, since, for the first time, he was able to help his family.
But that was make-believe and wishful thinking. The stuff of little kids, not middle school boys like him. He had stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy and Santa and the Easter Bunny when he was four when he realized that none of those creatures ever visited him.
At first he thought it was because they couldn’t find him. After all, he had no home. Sometimes he slept on the floor in apartments of people he didn’t know. Sometimes he slept on the street, or tried to anyway. Until the shelter had room for his family, he had never known what it was like to sleep in the same bed every night.
And to go to school every day wearing clean clothes.
One day, in Science class, the teacher gave each student a cup and had them put dirt in the bottom. Then she gave them each two seeds and told them to push the seeds into the dirt. Next was a dribble of water and then the cups were put on the windowsill.
Thomas took good care of his plants. Every day he tested the dirt, and if it was dry, added water. He rotated the cup, making sure that sun touched all sides of the budding plants. And the plants grew taller and taller every day. In fact, Thomas’s plants did better than those of all the other students.
His teacher told him he had a green thumb, a talent for growing things, and that reminded Thomas of Midas.
What is he could grow the food his family needed? So he asked his teacher for more cups and more dirt and more seeds. The new ones flourished under his care and soon were taller than those his classmates planted weeks before.
The time came to take their plants home. Thomas carried two cups home one day, two the next, and two more the day after that. He found a sunny spot in their room in the shelter and put all the cups there, lined up, like soldiers. And like Midas, he touched them every day, constantly checking on them.
The time came when the plants were too large for the cups. Thomas showed them to the shelter’s director. Mrs. Malloy smiled and said, “Follow me.”
She took Thomas out back to what used to be a garden. “You can clean this up and plant here.” She touched him lightly on the shoulder, turning him to see a shed. “You’ll find all the tools you need in there.”
Thomas went to work immediately. First he chopped down the four-foot tall weeds, and then dug up their roots. He added enough water to soften the dirt, then turned it over and over and over until only rich brown soil showed.
Mrs. Malloy supervised his work, checking on him at least once a day. “You’re such a hard worker,” she said. “This garden hasn’t grown anything edible in years. The soil is well-used, but not in a good way. Guess what? I’m going to buy you some fertilizer.”
When Thomas came home from school the next day, four large bags of fertilizer sat next to the garden. Thomas opened the first bag, scattered the mix over the dirt, and then using the shovel, turned the dirt over and over. He opened the second bag and repeated the process. And then the last two.
By the time he was finished, the dirt was a coco brown and silky to the touch. Thomas smiled.
When the weekend arrived, Thomas dug enough little holes for each of his plants. Then he carried his little cups outside, two by two, and turned them upside down, settling each plant in its own hole. Lastly he sprinkled water over the plants until the soil was damp.
Every day, as soon as he came home from school, Thomas went out back to check the progress of his garden. Every day the plants were taller. So, tall, in fact, that they became top heavy and were falling over. So he went to Mrs. Malloy and asked for her advice.
“You need some baskets for the tomatoes and a trellis for the peas. The squash will grow wherever it pleases, but at least we can help the others. I’ll go to the store tomorrow and get what you need.”
“Thanks,” Thomas said.
“You’ve got a green thumb,” she said. “Everything you touch seems to grow. You should be proud.”
“Can I support my family with a green thumb?”
Mrs. Malloy looked down at him and smiled. “Not right now because your crop won’t be big enough to sell, but when you’re older, you can work at a farm and grow things that will feed hundreds.”
The next day Mrs. Malloy helped Thomas loop the tomatoes through the baskets and wind the peas through the trellis. “You’ll need to check every day to see if the plants need adjusting. As they grow, the tomatoes will be heavy and will pull the plant down unless you make sure the baskets provide enough support.”
Thomas nodded. He understood exactly what she meant, and so every day, as soon as he came home from school, he inspected his garden. He pulled out weeds, wound stray tendrils around the trellis, and pulled longer branches through the baskets.
His plants flourished. One day he was able to pick two tomatoes which he proudly showed his mom. “Oh, Thomas,” she said as she wrapped her arms around him. “I’m so proud of you! We’ll share them tonight at dinner.”
The next day Thomas picked four tomatoes and the day after that, six. Every day he provided food for the table. Soon the other residents started praising him and thanking him. And when the peas and squash ripened, there was even more to share.
Before dinner one night, Mrs. Malloy asked Thomas to come to the front of the room. “Thomas, we are all blessed because of you. You have given us many gifts and brought joy to our lives. Your green thumb has provided us with fresh vegetables for many nights. We are all proud of you.”
Everyone applauded, making Thomas blush. As he sat down, he smiled. While the things he touched didn’t turn into gold, they did grow into something better than gold. Nourishment. Joy. Happiness.
Thomas was just like King Midas. He has a magic touch.