WHERE’S YOUR UMBRELLA?

The rains failed again that year. It was the third year in succession when there was no rain. The crops had disappeared and the land was a brown swath of dusty rubble. Trees had lost their leaves years ago and stood out like silhouettes of cactus on the dusty horizon. There was a stream that skirted the village in years bygone. Now the riverbed was dry. Where once flowed clean, fresh water from the nearby mountains, there was now a bed of clay, cracked in a checkerboard pattern with gaps as wide as a foot.  No one knew what had happened to the birds except for the vultures that circled the town, looking for a carcass or two of an animal that was left dying.

There was famine in the land. People walked around like sticks, sans flesh, surviving on whatever ration was brought to them by various international charities.

Desperate for help, the people of the village held a meeting under a big banyan tree that was as old as the village. “Let us pray”, said an elderly woman. “Only God can help us now.”

There lived people of many faiths in the village and there ensued a big debate as to where to hold the prayer – in a church, a mosque, a synagogue  or a temple. There was no consensus. Exhausted, they decided to hold their prayer in the open, late that night, under the open sky, away from the town. It was a full moon night and the moon shone with its alluring brightness against a background of shimmering stars.

Amongst the people gathering for prayer a little girl holding hands with her young brother came running from a nearby village, holding high an open umbrella over their heads. Huffing for breath, they stood there, looking up, umbrella still unfurled. The gathered crowd could not but help turn around and wonder what was going on.  Some were curious; others were annoyed and some others were even furious as they kept being poked by the spokes of the umbrella.

Finally a curious bystander asked, “Why did you bring the umbrella?  Can’t you see there is no rain and we have come here to pray for rain?  Only a foolish person would stand on a clear night like this with an open umbrella.”

“Yes  indeed”, chimed in the two young siblings. “We came to pray too. We are certain that our prayer will be answered and it will rain. That is why we brought this big, colourful umbrella.”

Adapted from The Child who Brought an Open Umbrella for Prayer
by  Professor Nazeer Ahmed

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A variant of the same story

There was once a small village, which was suffering from a severe drought. The crops were dying, and the villagers and their animals had very little water to drink.

One day, to try to find a solution to the drought, the village priest called the villagers to gather at the village square to pray together for rain. He told them to bring along a token of their faith, so the prayer would be done in sincere faith.

And so, the villagers gathered at the square bringing with them tokens of their faith. Some brought the Holy Bible while others carried small crosses as tokens of faith. They all prayed aloud with great faith and hope.

Sure enough, within a few moments it began to rain. The whole crowd was overjoyed and danced happily. The priest noticed that among the joyous crowd was a nine-year-old boy, clutching an umbrella as a token of faith. The priest admired this little boy, who had brought an umbrella in total faith that the God would surely hear his prayers and send rain.

CONSIDER THIS

One short passage in the Gospel of Matthew reads, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” | Matthew 7:7-8

Sometimes we ask and we do not receive, we search and do not find, we knock and the door remains tightly shut. So what do you make of this Gospel verse?

What are you praying for and what do you bring with you to prayer? What is your umbrella?

CHILDREN WILL GET THE POINT

In the full bus, packed to overflowing actually, everyone’s attention was drawn to a small boy holding a scrap of wood with extreme care. One lady could not bear it any longer, and asked him why he was being so careful about this worthless scrap of wood.

He explained, “I am taking a little ant for a ride. She is my great friend. It is her first trip in a bus.”

Who would ever have thought the kid could have so much poetry and kindness in him!

I could not keep my eyes off him. When he got off the bus, I got off too. I felt that here was someone I could really talk to.

I explained that I too was very fond of little ants. And I told him about the only time when the ants and I had ever been at cross purposes.

One night, our little ants at home gobbled up our rosebush. Nest morning, I caught Sonja, a little red lady ant and one of the cleverest I ever met in my life. I didn’t squeeze her angrily – for God preserved me from anger! But I did hold her with a certain firmness. Her little foot was trembling and her heart was beating fit to burst.

I asked her why they had gobbled up my rosebush in a single night.

Miss Sonja replied, “Do you think you are the only person to like roses?”

At first I was taken a back, but then retorted, “Eating seems a funny way of loving!”

At which Sonja nearly made me die of shame by asking, “Isn’t that what you do at Holy Communion?”

I apologized to her and set her free, carefully putting her back on the ground. For the next three days, all the ants looked at me askance.

Unable to bear this any longer, I called Sonja and asked her to help me.

And this is how, be means of Sonja, I taught the ants to smell the roses instead of eating them. I explained to them that kissing roses goes on all over the place. But not up here in Nordeste – we just smell them.

I invited the little boy who was taking his ant-friend for a bus ride to come and visit our garden one moonlit night and see all the ants climbing up the rosebush and smelling the roses.

The child did not react like a grown-up: he was not surprised, he did not disbelieve me. He thought it was great!

So I then told him how, one day, I met a young ant called Claudia, who was limping. We were in the garden at home. With her permission, I turned her over on her back to see what was the matter with her tiny foot.

So it was that Claudia for the first time saw the sky – for ants are just like us – go, go, go, run, run, never pausing to look up and gaze at the sky.

On seeing the sky for the first time, Claudia lay open-mouthed with amazement and delight. I soon realized there was no point in asking her about the foot. She was not listening. She was looking at the sky.

I told the little boy as he got into another bus carrying his ant on the bit of wood, “If you come to my house one moonlit night, you may very well find the little ants lying on their backs with their heads in the grass, gazing at the moon.”

Source | Dom Helder Camara, A Thousand Reasons for Living
(Fortress Press, 1981) pages 5-7

CONSIDER THIS

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. | Matthew 18:2-4 (NRSV)

For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.” | Matthew 18:2-5 (the Message)

 

 

CHILDHOOD PERCEPTION

Young Maria, only four years old, returned home from Nursery School complaining, “Mummy, I’ve got a stomach ache.”

“That’s because your stomach is empty,” Sarah, her mother replied kindly. “You’ll feel better when you have something in it.”

She made Maria a small snack and sure enough, maria felt better immediately.

Later that afternoon the pastor, a family friend, dropped by to see Sarah. While he was chatting with Maria’s mum, he mentioned he’d had a bad headache all day long.

Maria perked up straightaway and announced to the pastor, “That’s because it’s empty, father. You’d feel better if you had something in it!”

PONDER

Is it possible that we all see and hear things through our own unique lens?

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