|This was a nativity set on display at the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio.|
On his fourth birthday, Jonah Sheppard received a very special gift from his uncle Frank: a set of farm animals to play with. Uncle Frank told Jonah that he'd picked out the one with the most sheep since Jonah's last name was Sheppard. He'd laughed and then kneeled down to eve-level and asked Jonah if he knew what a shepherd was. Jonah thought the question was silly. Yes, he knew what a shepherd was. He was a Sheppard. But then Uncle Frank went on to explain that a shepherd is a person who keeps his eye on the sheep. Then he'd stood back up and ruffled Jonah's hair before he went back into the kitchen for more of Mrs. Sheppard's pasta salad.
Since then, Jonah spent most of his days playing with his toy flock. He arranged them this way and that; sometimes by size; sometimes by imaginary family. Every once in a while he'd hide a sheep and then his shepherd figurine would wander out into the carpeted living-room field to find his missing lambs.
Jonah thought he'd never received a better present. Day after day, he looked after his flock and never seemed to tire of counting his sheep and making sure that they were all accounted for. It felt good to have a purpose in life. Now Jonah knew who he was - the boy who looked after sheep. And one day he'd be a man with a whole farm to tend to. Jonah Sheppard the Shepherd. That's who he'd be. How had Uncle Frank known?