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Thankfulness History Story: The Jade Eardrop          © Jenny Jenkins 2015          https://sites.google.com/site/valueslessons  

Miss Alice Maxwell lived in 'The Elms', the second oldest house in Tauranga, New Zealand. During her life she collected many lovely things, but there was one she prized very highly. This is Alice's story of how it was given to her mother, many years ago.
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It was the year 1890, and Mother and I were travelling from Tauranga to Rotorua for a holiday. The large wooden wheels of the coach jolted and rocked over the rough bush track. "Whoa there!" the coach driver shouted to his horses.
"What's happening, Alice?" asked Mother. I leaned out of the window. Up ahead I saw a man leading a horse and cart into the trees at the side of the road, making room to pass. A young Maori man lay on the cart, his legs covered by a flax mat. He moaned with pain as the cart lurched over the deep wheel ruts.
"Need help?" the coach driver asked.
"No thank you,” the man answered. “He's broken a leg. I’m taking him to Rotorua Hospital. We need to travel slowly." I leaned back against the leather seat, feeling sorry for the injured man, but thankful for my good health and the comfort of the coach.
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A few days later, as we sat around the long dinner table at Brent's Hotel in Rotorua,
Mother asked Mr Brent, "Have you any news of a young Maori man with a broken leg? I believe he is at the hospital."
"Yes, Mrs Maxwell," Mr Brent replied. "His leg has been set and I heard he was walking on crutches yesterday."
That night, as the guests were sitting chatting over the last stages of their meal, there was a shout from the street outside, "Fire! Fire!"
Mr Brent leapt to his feet and strode out the door. In an instant he was back.
"Please excuse me," he said, snatching his hat off the stand by the door. "The hospital is on fire!" Then he was gone.
We sat for a second, stunned. Then Mother stood up. "Alice! We must help!" She hurried to fetch her coat, hat and gloves. I followed nervously.
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Outside, clouds of smoke filled the air. We joined a crowd of people hurrying to the fire. The wooden hospital was burning fiercely. Yellow flames and showers of sparks leapt high into the night sky.
The wind dropped. In the lull I heard a strangled cry. I glanced around, straining to hear where it came from. Someone was out there. Someone was hurt. We must help! We picked our way around the side of the blazing building, our eyes stinging from the smoke. A gust of wind sent a shower of sparks flying towards us. I bent low, shielding my face.
Again came the cry, louder, closer. A voice was wailing, "It's broken again! It's broken again!" I stumbled forward through the smoke and sparks. A man was lying on his back beside the path, his crutches scattered nearby. It was the young man I'd seen on the cart. He had tripped and fallen, breaking his leg again.
"Quickly Alice," said Mother. "Fetch blankets and pillows." Mother stayed with him while I hurried back to Brent's Hotel. When I returned we made him comfortable. We sat with him until almost midnight, when men were free to carry him back to Brent's. By then the hospital was a heap of ashes. When we settled him into a room at our hotel, he thanked us with shining eyes.
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At Brent's the next evening, following dinner, the waitress stood at the end of the table to read the list of puddings. Then she waited for the guests to choose. "A large helping of plum pudding please," Mother said in her clear voice. Everyone looked at her curiously, but Mother didn't mind. She sat with her pudding untouched until everyone was eating. Then she rose quietly, walked through the door to where the crippled young man was lying, and gave him her pudding. He showed his gratitude by the size of his smile. She stayed there for some time, chatting and reading to him. Mother did this every day for the rest of our stay in Rotorua.
One day, as we went into his room, I noticed an older Maori woman sitting in a corner, her full skirts spread around her, passing the time by singing quietly to herself.
Our holiday ended and we endured the long, dusty coach-ride back to the Elms in Tauranga.
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About a year later I was in the paddock by our home when I noticed the same woman peering through a gap in our hedge, trying to find a way in. She asked to see my mother, so I showed her to the gate and brought her to the house.

Mother was sitting in the dining room. The woman did a beautiful curtsy. It couldn’t have been more dignified and graceful had it been to the Queen. Standing up, she began fumbling in her skirts, for in those days ladies wore many layers of skirts. Tucked under her waistband she found a little package. She unrolled it, and held in her hand a beautiful jade eardrop.
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She presented it to my mother, saying, "I went many days inland to my people to get this for you. It has been a long walk here from Rotorua, but it has been in my heart to give you this, because you were so good to my son."
Mother thanked her and invited her to spend the night with us, but she politely refused.
"Would you at least stay for dinner?” Mother asked.
"No thank you,” she replied. “I have done what I wished. Now I am going home. Goodbye."
Although we never saw her again, the lesson she taught me about being thankful stayed with me for life.
© jennyjenkins21@gmail.com 2015  Reference: ‘Memories of a Mission House’ by Alice Maxwell 1942 

Discussion Questions
1. What were some different ways people in the story showed their thankfulness? (The crippled man with his thanks, his shining eyes and later a big smile at the sight of the pudding, his mother thanked Alice's mother with a precious gift, Alice's mother thanked her with words and by offering hospitality.)
2. Why do you think The Maori woman chose the jade ear drop for a gift? (She wanted to give something that expressed her deep gratitude for the way her son had been rescued and cared for. It was probably her most valuable possession. It was something any woman would be likely to treasure.)
3. Why was the jade eardrop so highly prized by Alice's mother? (Because it was probably the Maori woman's most prized possession. It was beautiful. Also it was a very long journey, hundreds of miles on foot over rough country, for her to walk to her home to get it, then journey back to give it to Alice's mother, and then to return back home to her family. This sacrifice added to its value.)

Visual Aid
Print out the images or make a powerpoint presentation from them, to help your students to visualise the story.
1. Coach http://resources2.news.com.au/images/2011/04/14/1226039/041602-escape-coach.jpg
2. Brents Hotel http://rotorua.kete.net.nz/image_files/0000/0000/7981/Brents_Hotel_pg16photo_medium.jpg
3. Building on fire https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/96/ShadowRidgeRoadFire.JPG
4. Dining table http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/11/18/article-2234781-161524E1000005DC-239_634x487.jpg
5. The Elms Mission House http://tauranga.kete.net.nz/image_files/0000/0000/3076/elms_large.jpg
6. Greenstone earfrop http://www.teara.govt.nz/files/o-7682-wmu.jpg