It was in Colorado not many years ago that this story begins and ends. A young artist in stained glass opened a shop in a little town where many people came to ski the mountains that rise all about the town. He made beautiful pictures out of bits and pieces of colored glass which he cut and fitted together with pieces of lead and copper. Some of the pictures were of the nearby mountains and others were of beasts which no-one had ever seen: unicorns, griffins, and dragons. But most of his best stained glass were pictures of animals. There were lambs and lions, and cats and dogs too. There were also many pictures of birds.
Outside his shop the young man hung up a simple sign which said
Stained Glass Emporium
Many people came to the shop and many of them bought his glass pictures. He sold a picture of a tiger in the jungle of Burma and another of a little goat eating grass. He sold many pictures of great eagles flying above the mountains, swooping down to catch fish from the river, or sitting proudly on a tree branch. But there was one picture he could not sell: the picture of a little blackbird standing on a rock and looking up into the sky. He did not know why no-one bought this pretty stained glass picture. It was a proud little bird with a yellow eye and glossy black feathers that made him stand out against the clear sky.
Day after day and year after year people would come to John’s studio and many would buy his glass pictures. Sometimes a child would look at the blackbird and ask for it, but then his mother would show him some other bird picture: a big ostrich, or a lovely flamingo standing proudly in the water, or a fine peacock spreading his plumage of many colors. Sometime a father would explain that blackbirds were pests and not nearly so pretty as the other glass pictures. Then the child would walk away from the little blackbird to look at the others.
After many years the artist thought that if the blackbird would not sell at the usual price he should get rid of it and use the space for another picture. He wrote a little sign that said:
This item only
John was about to paste the sign on the blackbird when he looked very carefully at the bird wondering why it never sold? He thought it a very fine blackbird with its long beautiful feathers and bright yellow eye. But the once proud bird did seem a little sad now. He realized he liked the poor bird more than any of the others. Perhaps that was because the blackbird had been in his shop so long and was a familiar old friend. It was something about the picture display that never changed no matter how many other pictures he made and sold. He decided to go home and think what else he might do instead of pasting the sign on his old friend. Perhaps he could hang it in his house or give it to a neighbor. Taking it up, he prepared to leave his shop for the day but as he was locking the door the artist happened to look up into the sky. A whole flock of blackbirds were flying over the town and the little glass bird seemed to see them as well. Then a thought came to the artist. John unlocked the door again and hurried to the basement of his shop where the studio where he made his glass pictures was. He soldered a brass frame behind the blackbird picture and on this he wrote:
John went outside again and hung up his new sign. The glass bird no longer seemed sad. He looked happy and proud as he watched people passing by and the blue sky above. Now every morning since that day, when the artist arrives at his shop he greets his old friend and the bird seems to greet him in return.