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True Worth

It was a small pueblo in the Sonoran Desert. Juliana and Desiderio lived there. They were both artisans. They had apprenticed with the great jeweler and artist Gabriel. Everyone in northern Mexico knew of Gabriel. Even in the Mexico City he was known to the rich people who could afford his works. Why, even the peons and laborers knew of him. He was the Great Gabriel. And July and Desi had been his apprentices.

Unfortunately, Gabriel has passed away only a year after they had come to his shops. They had not completed their apprenticeships, and so they were unable to truly say they had been given his blessing. But they took what they had learned and found this pueblo where there were many artisans working. They fit in here, they thought.

You must not think that July and Desi were a couple. They were just good friends. They decided to have a shop of their own together. They worked well as a team and they worked well on their own. They were simply hard workers and knew that someday their efforts would be recognized and honored. Gabriel had spoken highly of them when he had accepted them into his shops.

They had been working some time now and their shop was doing well. They made things like necklaces and earrings that were affordable and quite lovely. Many came from villages and pueblos around the area to see what they had to offer. But what they really took pride in were their works of art in precious stones and metals. They used only the best materials. The looks of the patrons who came in to see what new things they had wrought pleased them.

Some things they made were like galaxies of stars shining in the night, and some seemed to be dreamlike landscapes of places unknown to simple people, while others were wondrous animals and plants from around the world, speaking of climes and geography that the peasants of the village would never see but could admire and dream about from the works they saw in the shop.

However, few could buy these things. So they spent some months and years sitting on the shelves where they were admired but not purchased. Although the people gave their approval and always praised them to July and Desi, the men and women who had the power and the money did not bother to purchase them.

Others in the village seemed to prosper while our two did only as well as they could. Some so-called artisans offered up inferior objects that were honored by the rich and powerful when they were purchased for considerable sums. July and Desi did not understand it. And their working class admirers did not have the knowledge or skills of interpretation to decide who was the best artists, but they always felt that the two friends were somehow producing a more pleasing effort.

This was a very rich area in Mexico for artisans and so there were festivals held almost monthly where prizes were given to the finest works. These brought in visitors from across the country, and even abroad. July and Desi always entered their children, as they called their art pieces, in the contests. They were judged by administrators and bureaucrats. They never won. Oh, once in a while, a token honor was bestowed. Or some discerning buyer from far away would purchase a fine piece. But never in the numbers and with the pomp and circumstance received by others. The ones that the insiders judged worthy.

This went on for years, and many honors were passed out to inferior creations, and purchases were made of lackluster works, as July and Desi were passed over. It would have been disheartening if it was not for the daily praise they received from the people. The simple people of their pueblo and from the villages and towns surrounding them in their mountain home. This was all they needed. Recognition from the rich and the powerful was nice if you wanted to be rich and powerful too. They didn't. They wanted to be known for their work. And they were. By those who truly counted.

So they spent their lives producing works of art and smaller, less pretentious works that the poor could often afford and hold dear. And with this and from this they derived their love and honor. These were the true joys that one should strive for. This they believed. Other less impressive and less talented people would always garner unearned praise. Always from those who loved to reward only their friends and those who would in turn praise them. This was how the world sometimes worked.

July and Desi did not care. Life went on. They did well enough to continue their work. That was all that was important.

The two died within days of each other. They had never been lovers. But they had always been friends of the soul. And their souls were united in death. When the word was passed to the people in the pueblo, who in turn passed it to their friends and relatives all around the mountains and valleys of their remote province, it was as if a thunderbolt had struck.

The processions through the streets, with the bodies of Juliana and Desiderio, the Artists, took all day. Thousands had come. Even the rich landowners, and the bureaucrats, and the politicians. And also, the other artisans in the pueblo came. They had given little honor to the Artists in their lifetimes. The people shunned them now. The honor that July and Desi received was the love of simple people, with simple tastes, who knew greatness when it appeared. And they mourned the loss.

The moral of the story is simple. Do your best. Grieve not for loss of glory. If you are truly talented and hardworking you will be appreciated in life. And admired in death by true friends who honored your efforts.

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