It was very clear and warm day in the Springtime in a little village in Tuscany, Italy. It was just now in a quaint little schoolhouse that a wise old teacher was giving his students their last lessons of the day.
"And so," he said, "can any of you tell me what you think separates us human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom?"
Almost immediately then, a small boy who had black hair and blue eyes and wore a pair of red overalls over a yellow shirt raised his hand up high.
"Yes, Pinocchio," the teacher called to him.
"What I think separates us as human beings from all other animals," Pinocchio said, "is in our ability to know right from wrong and also to choose when to do either one."
"Very, very good, Pinocchio!" the teacher praised his student proudly. "Yes, that is an excellent answer. We as human beings must always decide what is right and wrong throughout our whole lives. Now can any of you tell me of an example of when what is right or wrong conflicts with what is wrong or right?"
Now a lot of the students looked just plain confused, but Pinocchio once again raised his hand promptly.
"Yes, Pinocchio," said the teacher with a smile.
"Sometimes it is right to tell the truth, and sometimes it is wrong to," Pinocchio said. "Such as when we do something wrong and we aren't sure if it's right to admit to it. It's also sometimes good to just walk away from your enemies, and sometimes it's better to stand up to them."
The teacher was now just beaming with pride at Pinocchio. "Well said, Pinocchio. Very well said indeed. Now," he concluded, "Your new assignment shall be to write an essay on what the notions of doing what is right or wrong mean to all of you as individuals. Due next week, and for now class is dismissed."
So then each and every one of the students all leaped out of their seats and hurried excitedly toward the front door. Just before they left however, their teacher stood by the door and handed them each their report cards. When it was Pinocchio's turn he gave him his with a special smile and twinkle in his eyes.
Pinocchio returned the smile and then hurried on his way home with his report card in hand. It was then that a tiny cricket dressed in very fashionable clothes and a top hat and wearing a solid gold badge on his left breast peeked out from inside the brim of his hat. He was Jiminy Cricket, and was his official conscience and also his best friend.
"I get more impressed by you every day it seems, Pinoch," said Jiminy with the same kind of pride as the teacher had expressed. "You've become the smartest boy in your whole class, if not in the whole town."
"Aw, thanks, Jiminy," Pinocchio replied modestly. "I'm just want father to be proud of me, really."
"And he should be," said Jiminy. "After all, ever since you became a real boy, he has been so happy that he has been doing better for himself and his work than he ever did before, as he says."
It was minutes later that Pinocchio arrived at the little house which he and his father, Geppeto, who was a carpenter and a toy maker for a living, resided in. Geppeto himself came outside right away as Pinocchio came up the pathway while holding out his report card with a big smile on his sweet young face.
"Oh, I see you've brought back your grades. Well, let's see how they are again," Geppeto said as he hurried to meet his son.
Geppeto took the report card from Pinocchio and read it as they entered into he house. When he had finished reading it his eyes welled up with tears of love, pride, and joy all at once. Then for a moment he was too proud for words to be spoken. So he just picked up Pinocchio and hugged him tightly and kissed him on his forehead lovingly.
Pinocchio smiled as Geppeto set him down again and then looked up at him with concern as he asked, "Why the tears, Father?"
"These tears of mine are of sweet happiness and love," Geppeto assured him. "For your report says more than I could have hoped for. It says, from your teacher, that you are the most intelligent and brightest young boy that he has met in many years."
Pinocchio just smiled and blushed a little bit. He wasn't sure if he was deserving of such praise, although it made him feel good all the same. He was in all truth though just happy to be making his father proud of him and also to be fitting in so well in school and in town and with the other boys with whom he would often go out to play with when he came home.
Geppeto composed himself for a moment and then said to Pinocchio, "Well, now if you like you may go out and play with your friends. Only you must make sure to be home in time for dinner, as tonight we will be having something extra special for a celebration."
"Really! Gee, thanks, Father!" exclaimed Pinocchio happily.
He then hurried out and met up with four other boys whom he knew from school and they played kickball for a while and then went down to the lake and fished for a while. Then just before the sun began to set, Jiminy whispered to Pinocchio it was time to go home and so he said goodbye to his friends promising to see them again soon, and hurried home.
And so it was that evening that Pinocchio and Geppeto, along with Jiminy and their cat Figaro had large bowls full of minestrone for supper, and afterward they all had pieces of chocolate panetonne cake which Geppeto so lovingly baked himself.
For Pinocchio, life truly was all that he and his family could wish for it to be.