A wise father wanted to teach his young son a lesson. "Here is a pillow covered in silk brocade and stuffed with the rarest goose down in the land," he said. "Go to town and see what it will fetch."
First the boy went to the marketplace, where he saw a wealthy feather merchant. "What will you give me for this pillow?" he asked. The merchant narrowed his eyes. "I will give you fifty gold ducats, for I see that this is a rare treasure indeed."
The boy thanked him and went on. Next he saw a farmer's wife peddling vegetables by the side of the road. "What will you give me for this pillow?" he asked. She felt it and exclaimed, "How soft it is! I'll give you one piece of silver, for I long to lay my weary head on such a pillow."
The boy thanked her and walked on. Finally he saw a young peasant girl washing the steps of a church. "What will you give me for this pillow?" he asked. Looking at him with a strange smile, she replied, "I'll give you a penny, for I can see that your pillow is hard compared to these stones."
Without hesitation, the boy laid the pillow at her feet.
When he got home, he said to his father, "I have gotten the best price for your pillow." And he held out the penny.
"What?" his father exclaimed. "That pillow was worth a hundred gold ducats at least."
"That's what a wealthy merchant saw," the boy said, "but being greedy, he offered me fifty. I got a better offer than that. A farmer's wife offered me one piece of silver."
"Are you mad?" his father said. "When is one piece of silver worth more than fifty gold ducats?"
"When it's offered out of love," the boy replied. "If she had given me more, she wouldn't have been able to feed her children. Yet I got a better offer than that. I saw a peasant girl washing the steps of a church who offered me this penny."
"You have lost your wits completely," his father said, shaking his head. "When is a penny worth more than one piece of silver?"
"When it's offered out of devotion," the boy replied. "For she was laboring for her Lord, and the steps of His house seemed softer than any pillow. Poorer than the poorest, she still had time for God. And that is why I offered her the pillow."
At this the wise father smiled and embraced his son, and with a tear in his eye he murmured, "You have learned well."