by Jane Lebak
Mara lived in Capernaum with her mother, her father, and two brothers.
Mara was born with no hair. Everyone said, “Don’t worry. Next year, Mara will have hair.”
Next year, she still had no hair. Everyone promised, “Next year, Mara will have hair.”
When Mara was two, people said, “She should have hair by now.”
Now Mara was eight. No one ever said, “Next year, she’ll have hair.” When Mara went to the market, she wore a headscarf. It was pretty, but it itched.
Today, Mara’s mother looked worried as she handed Mara her scarf and the market basket. “Buy salted fish for dinner, whatever is cheapest.”
She handed Mara two coins. Usually, Mother gave her four, but last week, Father had broken his leg. He hadn’t worked this week. Was there no more money?
Mara’s head itched under the scarf, and the money itched in her hand. How would she feed the family with only two coins?
Mother tried to look brave. “I won’t be hungry tonight.”
A crowd clogged the market, and everyone was talking. “The rabbi is here!” some people said. Others said, “They say Rabbi Jesus heals people.” A third man shouted, “He even turned two fish into food for five thousand people!”
A rabbi could feed Mara’s family with only two coins?
Mara pushed into the crowd. She ducked under their baskets. She even crawled once, but she had to see Jesus.
When Mara reached the front, the preacher called her. “I see a very worried girl.”
Mara showed him her coins. “I need to buy fish, but this is all we have.
My father can’t work. His leg is broken.”
Jesus turned to the man at his side. “Peter, do we have any extra fish?”
Peter muttered, “Only about twelve baskets.” Mara held out her basket, and Peter loaded in big handfuls of fish. Mother would eat tonight too!
Jesus said, “What else do you want?”
Mara fingered her scarf. “Rabbi Jesus, the fish is enough.”
Jesus smiled. “Do you want your father to get well?”
She nodded. “I also want my mother not to worry.”
If Mother wasn’t worried, then Mara wouldn’t be afraid. Mara wouldn’t think about Mother becoming hungry and sick.
Jesus rested a hand on the scarf on Mara’s head. “What is she worried about?”
Mara thought about her head, bald under her scarf. “Mother also worries about me.”
“My mother worries about me, too.” Jesus leaned forward. “Do you believe I can do what I said, and your father will get well?”
Mara’s full basket was already a thing Jesus had promised. “Yes, Rabbi. If you want to, I believe you can do it.”
Jesus kissed her forehead. “Go home. Your faith has blessed your family.”
Mara gave him her coins, but Jesus laughed.
“Keep your money. My food is for everyone.”
The basket was heavy all the way home, but Mara skipped. So many fish! Even her itchy scarf didn’t make her sad. Mother would have dinner. Father would feel better. Jesus had promised.
At home, Mother rushed outside. “Come quickly! See what happened!”
Father was standing. “My leg is better!”
Mara jumped. “The rabbi! Jesus said your leg would heal!”
Mother lifted the basket. “How did you get all these fish?”
Mara showed Mother the coins. “That was from Jesus, too!”
Father swung Mara around. As she laughed, her scarf flew off, and Mother gasped. “Mara! Your head!”
Before Mara could put back her scarf, Mother touched her head…where a river of black curly hair spilled all the way to Mara’s waist.
Mara put her hands to her mouth. Then, without waiting, she ran back to the market. When she got there, she shouted, “Rabbi Jesus!”
She pushed all the way to the front of the crowd, and he opened his arms. “Are you okay? You’ve run so far!”
His eyes were so kind, and he was grinning. Mara wished he would never stop.
“I needed to tell you.” She pointed to her head. “Thank you.”
Jesus hugged her. .”
“Thank you for healing my father. Thank you for the fish and my hair.” Mara hugged Jesus tighter. “But mostly, thank you for making my mother smile.”
© 2021 Jane Lebak