The Pine Tree of St. Martin
Author: Paulo Coelho
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
There are some days…hard days…when everything seems to be crumbling around you and no matter what you do, nothing seems to go right. It is on those days that you sit wondering what you could have done or should have done differently to achieve a better result. It is on those days when you second guess your judgment and lose your faith in your fellow man. I was experiencing such a day when I received a blessing. It was a tale written by Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist among many other well-received novels. The tale was called The Pine Tree of St. Martin and it was the bright spot of my day.
In the short story, while preparing for Christmas Eve mass, the parish priest of a small village called St. Martin, located in the French Pyrenees, is overcome by a beautiful fragrance. He traces that fragrance to a beautiful golden Christmas tree and remarks about the tree’s beauty to the young boy seated near it. However, the boy doesn’t really see its beauty. He is worried what his parents will say when he returns home with this golden tree rather than the Christmas tree he was sent to buy.
It is then that we learn of the boy's selfless acts of charity as he offers the money he has been given to buy the tree to perfect strangers he meets along the way who need it more than he does. Finding himself penniless at the end of the journey, he removes a brand from a pine tree in hopes that his parents would be pleased enough with it. However, on his return to the village, the tree grew heavier and metallic, becoming solid gold.
The priest then explains to the young boy how giving selflessly of himself has inspired prayers from the people he has helped and that these prayers have been heard by the Lord and all the angels of Heaven. The gifts he bestowed on others less fortunate than he were returned tenfold as the Virgin Mary had perfumed the frond, the angels had touched the leaves and turned them to gold and Jesus had blessed the tree in answer to the prayers of the recipients of the youth’s unexpected and much needed gifts.
After reading this tale, my spirits were immediately uplifted. Not only had I lost faith in myself and my actions, but I had lost faith in my fellow man. However, this tale offered me a spark of hope that giving of yourself is not foolish and that selflessness is something to aspire to in life. It gave me faith that there are those out there who appreciate selfless acts no matter how small. All that from a short story written by Paulo Coelho. Thank you, sir, for lifting up my spirits with a story about the true meaning of Christmas.