Here is an old favorite, based on a story by Tolstoy.
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurry, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about Grandfather,” said the son. “I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor!”
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes they saw a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.
The four-year-old watched it all in silence. Then one evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?”
Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. No word was spoken but tears streamed down their cheeks and both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, are our houses and china more important than our loved ones? Why do we reserve our best china and silverware for visitors and don’t use them so that the entire family enjoys? Shows us our priorities, wouldn’t you say so? Maybe other people are more important than our very own family.
We don’t celebrate our birthdays; I mean the Ilocana and I. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, I always call my wife 'the Ilocana.' We would rather spend quiet time alone with our family at home and let the day pass without making a great deal out of it.
Don’t get mad at me but I can’t quite figure out why people celebrate their birthdays. Over the years I've realized the perspective to be quite erroneous.
Lilia the Ilocana one day pointed out our mistake. We DO need to use the occasion to celebrate with the family. We HAVE to make it a big deal so that memories are created. We NEED to put our family as the priority over everything else.
People invite me to speak at major conferences and I get a suite in a fancy hotel. People request me to speak at their conventions and I get the best treatment, as if I were the star of the show. And then when it comes to my family there’s no celebration, nothing. Looks like I need to do some quick repair.
All the kids are growing up fast and there will come a day when they will celebrate their birthdays with their friends and not with their parents because it meant so little to them. Boy, oh, boy.
Maybe a better idea is to make occasions and celebrate them. Tell them: This is the day that the Lord has made and I WILL consciously, deliberately, purposefully...I guess you know what I mean.
Print ed: 02/10