Mister Keller, the Storyteller©

Several years ago, in a hospital in a small Texas town, a young girl with a deadly form of cancer was fighting hard to stay alive. Her doctors offered very little hope that she would survive. But her parents and school friends visited daily. They had faith that she might find the strength to overcome the dreadful sickness.

One morning, a nurse arrived at her bedside with an elderly gentleman who was wearing a big cowboy hat.

“Good morning, Hanna,” said the nurse. “I have a surprise for you. This is Mister Keller. He is a storyteller. He has volunteered his time to visit the hospital and tell stories to our young patients.”

Hanna smiled and softly asked, “Are you a real cowboy, Mister Keller?”

“I used to be before I retired,” he replied. “However, I do have a big ranch and several cowboys who help me run the place.”

Hanna was attached to monitors and other medical devices, but she suddenly seemed to forget her discomfort. She wanted to know what stories Mister Keller liked to tell. This truly pleased him. He realized how difficult it was for someone in her condition to show any interest in his stories.

Mister Keller sat down on a chair next to her bed. “Well, Hanna, I have some great stories that you have never heard before. And they are all true, like the story of the beautiful little calf that saved my life.”

Hanna whispered, “How did she do that?”

Mister Keller replied, “Oh, it’s a long story. I’ll be happy to tell you, but I only dropped by today for a few minutes to meet you and see if you would like me to come back and share some of my stories with you.”

“Yes, I would, Mister Keller,” she replied softly, “and I would like to know more about things at the ranch.”

“Well,” he grinned and replied, “I’ll talk to the nurse and see if I can drop by sometime tomorrow.”

Hanna smiled. She knew that she had something to look forward to. On the following day, she asked the nurses several times, “When is Mister Keller coming?” When he arrived, Hanna immediately asked him to tell her the story of how the young calf saved his life.

He told the story, explaining how he had kept his newborn calf corralled near his ranch house for several weeks to protect her from wolves. Late one night, while he was sleeping, a fire broke out in the garage, next to his bedroom. He didn’t hear anything and continued to sleep. But the calf kept whining and mooing, which awakened him, just as the fire reached his bedroom.

Hanna’s parents soon arrived. Seeing how Hanna was responding to Mister Keller’s stories, they asked him if he could visit more often.

“Of course I can,” he responded. “I’ll come as long as she continues to show interest.”

From that day on, Mister Keller was at her bedside every day, telling stories about life out on his ranch. Many of his stories were hard to believe, but Hanna believed them. Before long, the nurses noticed that Hanna appeared more responsive to treatment. They believed that Mister Keller’s stories were helping Hanna fight her sickness.

One day she asked Mister Keller, “When I get out of the hospital, could my parents and I come and stay at your ranch for a little while?”

Mister Keller replied with a big smile, “Hanna, if you will hurry up and get well, I’ll move into my favorite cowboy cabin, and you and your parents can stay in the big ranch house as long as you like.”

Whatever Mister Keller’s stories did to change the course of Hanna’s sickness, we will never know. But it happened. Over the following weeks, something turned Hanna’s dreaded sickness completely around. She fully regained her health.

However, soon after, everyone in town learned from the newspaper the true story about Mister Keller. He had been suffering from a terminal form of cancer for the past year. They were also surprised to learn of his death. He died all alone in his little trailer on the outskirts of town. You see, there were no cowboys or a big ranch. It turns out that Mister Keller was one big, beautiful storyteller.

No greater gift to friend or brother
Is the gift of compassion for one another.