So there I was, sitting at the lake watching the swan when a flash of color caught my eye. Looking down, I thought I had wakened inside a dream. A tiny little guy who looked something like a cross between one of Snow White’s dwarfs and a leprechaun was walking along the shore dragging this Aladdin-like lamp behind him. It was half his size and looked really heavy. But he was grinning ear to ear.
I rubbed my eyes. He was quite a mish-mash of metaphors, come to life. He looked at me and laughed and it startled me. “Hello!” he said.
“Hello,” I answered. “Who are you? And what are you doing here?”
“I’m John,” he said, “and I just got my lamp.”
“Um, that would be Johnny the Genie?” I said, trying not to roll my eyes.
“Right! Cool lamp, hey? Want to make three wishes?”
“And if I do, will you make them come true?” I asked, thinking I must have gone over the edge.
“Well, I’m just an apprentice, of course,” he said. “And to tell you the truth, we don’t really make the wishes come true.”
“What’s with the lamp then? And what do you do?” I asked. This was getting more incredulous all the time.
“Well, see,” Johnny said, setting down his lamp and plunking down cross-legged beside me, “the lamp is just a prop. It’s like a placebo. You believe it has power and so it does.”
“What do you do, then?” I asked.
“I whisper,” the unlikely genie said. “As soon as you make your wishes, I turn invisible. But I follow you everywhere and keep whispering your wishes to you. That keeps you looking for them. And you know—what you believe in and look for has a way of showing up.” He giggled.
“Of course, you’re the one who really makes them happen,” he said in a low voice as if he were sharing a confidential secret. “You listen to your hunches and prompts and whims. Then, expecting magic, you follow them to see where they lead. You spot the opportunities for action. You decide to grab them. Everybody makes their own magic, you know. I just help them believe.
“Neat job, hey? Like my suit?” he said.
I told him I thought the job was a fantastic gig. “But that suit . . . Well, to be honest, you don’t look powerful to me. I always thought genies were supposed to be big and powerful.”
“Hey! I’m just an apprentice, I told you. This is my first lamp. I start with the little wishes. You know, things like ‘I wish I could get myself to exercise today,’ or ‘I wish the kitchen were cleaned up,’ or ‘I wish I could be more cheerful.’ Stuff like that. I help people practice doing the little magic, and both of us learn—the person who makes the wishes and me. And we both get better at it as we go along. We graduate to bigger things.”
“I think I’m beginning to get it,” I told him, after thinking for a few minutes about what he had said. “I could get up tomorrow morning, make three smallish wishes for my day, and then watch myself choose to make them come true. Right?”
“Well, sure! That’s how it works. I just make it more fun. People forget their magic is supposed to be fun. Remember that, and you don’t even need me at all. Give it a try. See how it works for you for a couple weeks or so. Make three wishes in the morning and believe you can get them to come true. See what happens. I’ll find you later down the road, see how you’re doing.”
“Okay,” I said, “Why not?”
“Great! Good luck to you!” he said, giggling. “I gotta go now. Lots of wishes are waiting to come true out there. And I can’t wait to help it happen.”
“Good luck to you, too, Johnny. I think you’re going to be a fabulous genie.”
And hardly had I finished my sentence than—Poof!—he was gone.
From across the lake, I thought I heard the swan laughing.