Story told by Pat Ashe to his children
Many years ago, there were two little girls called Judy and Liz. They were best friends and did everything together. But they couldn’t have been more different. Whereas Judy was a very pretty and outgoing young girl, Liz was very plain and self-conscious. When they went out into the town together, people would stop and say: “Ooh, isn’t she a pretty girl” – they were talking about Judy, of course, and if any comment was ever heard about Liz, it was: “Oh, that poor girl – she’s quite ugly!”
Judy and Liz heard some of these comments as they walked together and, while Judy preened herself with pride because people admired her beauty, Liz just shrugged her shoulders, and accepted that she wasn’t as pretty as other girls, especially her best friend Judy.
Back in their homes, the parents of Judy and Liz also had different reactions to their daughters. Judy’s parents were pleased that their daughter was so pretty – it reflected well on them. But they were constantly frustrated by her behaviour which never seemed to improve. Despite constant requests from her mother, and scolding by her father, she never made her bed, left her room in a mess, wouldn’t help to clear the dinner table, and was generally rather rude to people. On the other hand, little plain Liz was her parents’ pride and joy. They knew she wasn’t pretty like other girls, but she was a sweet little thing – always wanting to help her mother with the dishes or help her father rake the lawn.
One day when the two little girls were playing together in a field behind their houses, they saw something flash in the sky. Looking up, they thought it was a bird but as it came lower, they recognised the shape of an aeroplane – it was a little silver aeroplane, and it was coming to land in their field. Excited, they ran to the edge of the field to give it enough space, and it swooped in and rolled to a stop right next to them.
A little man got out and introduced himself: “Hi, I’m the pilot of the plane, and I wondered if you would like to come for a ride.”
“Ooh, yes!” responded Judy and Liz together, “But where will you take us?”
The pilot explained that he came from a group of little people who lived in a small city built among the clouds, and that he would be delighted to take them there to look round for a couple of hours. The two little girls couldn’t believe their luck, and they climbed into the little silver aeroplane which then took off. As the plane rose higher, Judy and Liz looked out of the windows and saw their homes getting smaller and smaller. Just as they were wondering how long the journey would take, the plane darted into a cloud and landed.
The pilot helped them out of the plane, and they gasped as they saw how beautiful the city was – and not just the city, but the people as well. The pilot smiled at their amazement and said: “Now you run along and explore. You won’t get lost, but if you need any help, just ask someone and they’ll tell you the way back to the plane.”
Judy and Liz thanked the pilot and set off to explore. There were lovely little parks with fountains, and they sat on a bench in one park to rest. While they were admiring the view, some people walked past and said to each other: “Oh, what a beautiful little girl, but her friend is so ugly”. Being used to hearing these sorts of comments down on earth, the two little girls didn’t pay any attention. However, then someone else walked past, stopped, and came up to Liz, and said: “My, my – what a beautiful girl you are”, and walked away. Judy and Liz were astonished. The man must have been blind or silly. How could he possibly think that Liz was beautiful?
Then another group of people walked past, looked at Judy, and said to each other: “Oh dear, the poor thing – she’s so ugly!” The girls were thoroughly confused – was everyone batty in this cloud city?
Soon their two hours were up, and they walked back to the little silver aeroplane. Before they climbed on board again, they chatted to the pilot: “We’re very confused,” Liz said. “On earth, everyone thinks that Judy is beautiful, and that I’m rather plain, but here people say the opposite.” “Yes,” said Judy, “and it’s even worse here. They don’t just say that Liz is beautiful, but they call me ugly. It’s not fair.”
“Ah,” said the pilot. “I see that you have discovered the truth about our little city. You see – here, we don’t look at the outer physical beauty of a person; we look inside at their personality and their character to see what sort of person they are. So, when people here look at you, Liz, they don’t see that you are plain – they see how kind and thoughtful you are, and that is beauty to us here. And Judy, I’m afraid when people here look at you, they don’t see your outer beauty – they look inside and see that you are unkind and horrible, and that’s why they say that you are ugly.”
The girls were very pensive as they climbed on the plane, and Judy in particular began thinking long and hard about her behaviour. When they landed a little later in the small field and had said goodbye to the pilot, they watched him take off until the plane was a little speck in the sky. Judy turned to Liz and said: “That was a very interesting trip. I had never thought before about how my behaviour can change the way that people think about me.”
They went back to their homes for tea, but this time there was a difference in Judy’s house. When tea was finished, she suddenly jumped up and said: “Let me clear the table and wash up”. Her mother looked at her in astonishment – too amazed to say anything. Later, as her father gathered the laundry to wash, she went to him and asked if she could help.
Little by little, life began to change in Judy’s house. No longer was there screaming because Judy hadn’t cleaned her room – the scolding was replaced with hugs and expressions of thanks from her parents – and Judy became a happier person. As her life at home changed, so she also became nicer to her friend Liz and she started to talk to people about what a nice person Liz was. As others started to notice Liz, she also blossomed – she would never be beautiful like Judy, but Judy’s change of heart was also making her into a prettier person.
As a result of their ride in the little silver aeroplane, the two little girls learned an important truth – outer beauty can come and go, but inner beauty will always be with us.
Jesus gives us the possibility to change as well. By accepting Jesus into our hearts, we can graft His nature onto our own, and we can learn to love God and to be better people – more willing to help others. By doing this, we can learn the true meaning of JOY – Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.