Below is a video of the performance, followed by the text of the original story.
The Workers - Part 1
It was dark, still an hour at least before dawn, and the air was cold and quiet when John woke up. He listened, searching the silent hour for the sounds of the approaching day. Outside, he heard distant marching as the Roman guards patrolled the streets. Inside his one room home, he heard his wife and children breathing deeply in their sleep, huddled together with him on the floor. John wished that he could go back to sleep, but his thoughts wouldn't let him rest. He knew what this day held for him: the desperate, desperate search for work ‑ any kind of work ‑ that went on day after day. Oh, how he ached to have a real job! He remembered the days when he had been working at the granary, together with his brother‑in‑law Philip. It was so wonderful to have a steady job, to be able to sleep securely, knowing that there would be food on the table. But then that day had come, when one of the grain carts collapsed, and crushed Philip's hand. The foreman blamed Philip for the accident and fired him, and when John tried to stick up for him... he lost his job too. Now they had to find work wherever they could, always living from one day to the next. And some people wouldn't hire John because they thought he was a troublemaker. And Philip... well, it's hard to get a job with only one good hand.
Although it was still dark outside, John was beginning to hear a few voices out on the street, so he got out of bed. His empty stomach growled, and he looked at the few pieces of bread they had left, but he decided not to eat any. "We're almost out of food again" he thought, and left the house to search for work.
Near the center of town, there was a corner where the people who were looking for work would go, and if someone needed workers for the day, they could come there and find them. When John arrived, there were already several people standing there, and before long there was a small crowd. A few were being hired here and there, but with so many people out of work it looked like there might not be enough jobs to go around again today. But then a man came walking in on the east road, and he stood up on a step and said; "I am the owner of the vineyard to the east, beyond the river. The time has come for the harvest and I need workers. Any of you who want jobs can go now to my vineyard and the steward will give you work to do."
John was overjoyed! He could hardly believe it! All these people hired by this one man... could it really be true? He wasn't going to take any chances, so he was off like a shot, running down the east road. And as he ran, watching as the sky was beginning to brighten ahead of him, he laughed at himself, because he hadn't even thought to ask how much he would be paid.
When he got to the vineyard, his eyes opened wide and his mouth fell open. The vineyard was enormous! No wonder the owner had hired everyone in the marketplace, there was so much work to be done! He wished so much that he could send word back to Philip in town... maybe even he could get some kind of work here today. But he didn't have time. The steward was making job assignments, and John went right to work with a crew in one of the nearer fields.
After he had been working for quite a while, he paused to wipe the sweat from his brow, and he noticed that in the distance, another big group of people was coming from the town to the vineyard. "Well!" he thought, "This is certainly a great day for the hungry people in town! The owner is still hiring even though the morning is half over." He wondered if Philip might be in this group, and he wanted to go and see, but he had to let it go. He turned back to his work.
Midday finally came, and there was a break for lunch. John was feeling pretty weak by now, and as he walked towards the well by the owner's house, he couldn't help but think about the bread he had left at home that morning. "Maybe..." he thought, "one of the other workers will take pity on me and share his lunch with me." But when he got to the well, he couldn't believe his eyes! There was the steward of the vineyard handing out big loaves of bread and fish to anyone who wanted them! The owner of the vineyard was feeding all of the workers, and there was more than enough for all of them! John ate his fill for the first time in a long time, and rested under a shady tree.
When the call came to go back to work, John got right up. Rested and refreshed, he was eager to work, and his body felt strong again. As he was heading out into the fields, he thought he heard someone calling his name. He turned and looked, and in the distance he saw still more people coming from the town to work in the vineyard. And there near the front, calling and waving with his one good hand, was Philip. John smiled, and waved, and wiped gently at his eyes as he headed back to work.
For the rest of the day, John worked in one of the outer fields, and as he brought in his last load, he was again filled with amazement. He saw young children and old people working in the vineyard. He saw Philip harvesting with his one good hand, and even the poor beggar from town who couldn't walk had been given a job dipping water from the well for those who were thirsty. It was almost too much to believe. It looked like every man, woman and child in town had been given work to do.
John stood by, staring and lost in wonder at the scene until he realized that the steward had been ringing a bell to call the workers in to receive their pay. Now he was already lining them up, according to how long they had worked, with the ones hired last at the front of the line. John hurried over, but he ended up being the last one in line anyway. Everyone was pretty quiet after the day's work, but once the owner started handing out the pay, a commotion got started at the front of the line. The word spread like lightning. The owner was paying these people a full day's wages! And some of them had only worked for one hour. Now everyone was excited, and the people in front of John in line started to say; "Imagine how much we'll get if he's paying those others a full day's wages!" But as the line advanced, they found out that the owner was paying everyone a full day's wages, regardless of how long they had worked.
Now the workers near the end of the line, who had been in the vineyard all day, started scowling. Their mood grew dark, and they muttered, and some even cursed the owner under their breath. John could hear them in front of him and it bothered him. Something didn't seem right about them talking that way. After all, the owner wasn't cheating them! Why couldn't they be happy for the other people from the town?
One of them was saying he couldn't believe the owner wasn't going to pay them more than those other people. John replied cautiously; "But, didn't you agree to work for a regular day's pay?"
The man snapped back; "Oh! And I suppose you think it's funny that he's made fools of us all, working so hard when they get off so easy!"
John didn't say anything more after that.
As the line advanced, the workers became more and more angry. John felt deeply ashamed at the way they were treating the owner; grabbing the money out of his hand and making angry remarks. Finally, there were only three of them left to receive their wages.
The first one stood before the owner defiantly with arms crossed. "So!" he said, "You think my work is no better than what you get from some bunch cripples and weaklings? You think a whole day in the sun by me is worth as much as an hour in the shade by some lazy beggar? Is that what you're trying to say with your lousy money?"
Then he grabbed the money out of the owner's hand and said; "Let me tell you something. I'll take this money because I worked for it and I deserve it. But I'll rot in hell before I waste my time working for you again!" and he stormed off.
Then, the second man stepped up to the owner and stood before him. He calmly took the money out of the owner's hand, turned the coins over in his palm, and then let them fall between his fingers into the dust at the owner's feet. "I don't need your money." he said, looking him right in the eyes. "My pride is worth more than a lousy day's wages."
"Oh?" said the owner softly, "And is it worth more than the hunger of your wife and children, who have no bread to eat?"
The man's face flushed with rage and he stood there stiff before the owner. Then he spat on him, and walked away.
Now there was no one left but John, and the owner of the vineyard, and John's eyes were brimming with tears.
"I don't know how they can say those things," he said, "when you've done nothing but good to them, and to all of us! You came into our town and offered us work when we were nearly starving. You gave us food and water while we were working, and time to rest. You even hired people who couldn't work the whole day, or could hardly work at all, and then gave every one of us a full day's pay! I... I just want to thank you." he said, taking his hand, "Thank you, for all you've done for us today." And then he turned, and brushing a tear away from his eye, he began to walk home.
But the owner said to him; "Wait!"
And when John turned around, he saw him smiling with his hand outstretched, holding John's pay.
"You'll need this to buy bread for your family." he said.
John smiled and took the money, and then the owner of the vineyard said; "John, the harvest is great, but there aren't many workers. Come back again tomorrow. There will always be work for you here."
So John went home and shared the good news with his family. And from that day on he worked gladly in the vineyard, and he and his family were never hungry or thirsty again.
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