(a German folktale)
Once upon a time, long ago, there lived a man in Bavaria. Ali was his name. He was a friendly, smart fellow of many talents. But Ali believed most of all in following his dreams. His family and friends often teased him. “The dreamy one,” they called him, laughing behind his back. “He’ll never make anything of himself; he’s too busy looking at the clouds.”
Ali didn’t listen. He paid close attention to his dreams.
One night, he awoke from a dream in which he saw himself sitting in the middle of the medieval stone bridge in Regensburg. A voice was telling him if he went to the bridge, he would become a very rich man.
The next morning, Ali packed his things into a sack and started on his way to Regensburg. He dressed in warm clothes — the days were becoming cool, the nights were cold, and he thought he might have to stay for a while.
“Where are you going?” his brother asked.
“To Regensburg,” Ali replied. “I dreamed that if I went to the bridge, I would become rich.”
His brother laughed. “You are a fool, brother, but I know you will do as you like.”
Late that evening, Ali reached the bridge. He leaned against a wall and wrapped himself in warm blankets. And he began to wait.
Ali waited through that night and the next day and the next. After a few more days, people began to whisper about the strange young man wrapped in blankets, waiting on the bridge over the Danube. They tried to imagine what he was doing there, but no one had any idea. He was not a beggar — that they could see. But he never left his post.
Then one day, a merchant stopped at his side and looked down. “Young man, please tell me what you’re doing here. You’ve been here every day for two weeks, and it’s growing cold. Why don’t you go home?”
Ali smiled and said, “I dreamed I should go to the bridge in Regensburg and I would become rich.”
The merchant burst out laughing. “A dream told you to come and you listened?” He called to others crossing the bridge to come listen to this crazy man.
“He’s here,” the merchant told the others, “because he dreamed if he came to the bridge, he would become rich.”
One of the women who had been passing by laughed. “Don’t you know the only way to become rich is to work like a dog?” she said. “Dreams are fantasies.”
“Dreams are lies!” another woman added.
“Dreams are delusions,” said a man.
“Dreams are a fool’s paradise!” an old man sighed.
But Ali went on smiling. He nodded and listened. And when the others walked away, he said to the merchant, “Don’t you ever dream?”
The merchant laughed again. “Of course I do.”
“And what do you dream?” Ali asked.
The merchant sat down beside him and wrapped one side of the blanket around his own shoulders. “Let me tell you, son. I once dreamed that there was a pot of gold buried beneath the tree on top of that hill over there.” He pointed beyond the cathedral.
“Which tree?” Ali asked.
“That one, there,” the merchant said, indicating a monumental oak tree with copper leaves gleaming beneath the autumn sun.
“And what did you do about your dream?” Ali asked.
“I recognized it was a fantasy,” the merchant said. “I only remember the dream because it was a beautiful dream. Remembering it makes me smile. But I know that life is reality, and dreams are not.”
“But what if your dream is real?” Ali asked. “What if there is a pot of gold buried beneath that tree?”
The merchant put an arm around Ali’s shoulders. “If the dream is real, then I shall give you my dream pot of gold.”
“Thank you, sir,” Ali said. “That is very generous of you.”
The merchant and Ali said farewell to each other, and Ali waited until he was gone. Then he stood up, walked to the cathedral and borrowed a shovel from the groundskeeper.
Ali walked up the hill, dug beneath that towering oak, and sure enough, he found the pot of gold.
And he lived happily ever after, always paying careful attention to his dreams.