FROM A CHILD’S POINT OF VIEW

 

On a busy Saturday morning, Dad and his five-year-old son Martin made a bargain: If Martin behaved himself while Dad ran some errands at the home improvement store, Dad would take Martin to a movie.

Deal!

But the deal quickly fell apart. Martin began to pout and whine as soon as he and Dad walked into the store, making it impossible for Dad to get anything done.

“I don’t think you’re holding up your end of the bargain, buddy,” Dad said. “We had a deal. Remember?”

The little boy nodded tearfully.

Dad noticed that Martin’s shoelaces had come undone and knelt down to tie them. Martin sniffled and grasped the sleeve of his father’s sweatshirt, holding on. While Dad was still on his knees, he noticed the chaos around them: Shoppers nudged and pushed one another in an effort to get through the aisles; an hysterical mother called out for a lost child; a display of boxed items tumbled to the floor because a distracted customer wheeled a cart into it. And poor Martin kept getting hit in the shoulders and head with purses and bags as people brushed passed him.

From that vantage point, Dad realized how overwhelming and terrifying all of this chaos was to a five-year-old. He felt badly for not having been more sympathetic to his son’s plight and realized that Martin had been a champ in trying to brave his way through it all.

Shoes tied, Dad lifted up Martin and placed him on his shoulders. “Hey, buddy, what do you say we get out of here and do this shopping some other time?”

“Are you sure, Daddy?” Martin asked, trying to gauge why the plan was changing.

“Yup. Positive. Let’s go to that movie.”

Source: Adapted from
Seeds of Greatness by Denis Waitley

CONSIDER THIS

The Dominican theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart preached that “Whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion.”

Compassion is the ability and the willingness to enter the chaos, the pain, and the story of another.  It is all about putting oneself in the place of someone like Martin: to see the world from their perspective, to see what scares them, to understand their fears, to embrace their pain.

GOOD SAMARITAN

One semester, a seminary professor set up his preaching class in an unusual way. He scheduled his students to preach on the Parable of the Good Samaritan and on the day of the class, he choreographed his experiment so that each student would go, one at a time, from one classroom to another where he or she would preach a sermon. The professor gave some students ten minutes to go from one room to the other; to others he allowed less time, forcing them to rush in order to meet the schedule. Each student, one at a time, had to walk down a certain corridor and pass by a bum, who was deliberately planted there, obviously in need of some sort of aid.

The results were surprising, and offered a powerful lesson to them. The percentage of those good men and women who stopped to help was extremely low, especially for those who were under the pressure of a shorter time period. The tighter the schedule, the fewer were those who stopped to help the indigent man. When the professor revealed his experiment, you can imagine the impact on that class of future spiritual leaders. Rushing to preach a sermon on the Good Samaritan they had walked past the beggar at the heart of the parable.

Source:  Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat
Alice Gray (compiler), Stories for the Heart
(Multnomah Books,1996) page 93-94

CONSIDER THIS

We must have eyes to see as well as hands to help, or we may never help at all. I think this well known anonymous poem expresses it powerfully:

I was hungry and you formed a humanities club
to discuss my hunger.
Thank you.

I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly
to your chapel to pray for my release.
Nice.

I was naked and in your mind you debated the
morality of my appearance.
What good did that do?

I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for
your health.
But I needed you.

I was homeless and you preached to me of the
shelter of the love of God.
I wish you’d taken me home.

I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me.
Why didn’t you stay?

You seem so holy, so close to God; but I’m still
very hungry, lonely, cold, and still in pain.

 

SHE WEPT WITH HER SON

It was graduation time many years ago.   Preschool children had made a ceramic gift for their parents.  The graduation was over and the children had gone with their teachers to bring the gift of their ceramic hand to their parents.  The children all ran into the room together holding those hands as a surprise.   They were brightly wrapped with tissue paper and ribbons.   The classes had been working on them for weeks.

One small boy trying to run and carry his hand, wave to his parents, and at the same time he slipped and fell.   The surprise flew from his grasp and landed on the tile floor with an obvious ceramic crash.

The child’s first reaction was one of stunned silence but then he cried in disappointment at the broken hand.  His father who was wanting to minimize the incident and comfort the boy, patted his head and said, “Now that’s alright. It really doesn’t matter, son.  It really doesn’t matter at all.”  The child’s mother, somewhat wiser in such situations, dropped to her knees on the floor, swept the boy into her arms and said, “Oh but it does matter!  It matters a great deal!”   And she wept with her son.

Source: Based on a story told by  William Muehl in Why Preach? Why Listen
(Fortress Press, 1986) page 92

CONSIDER THIS

People need more than a pat on the head and a few words of reassurance. They need our blessing and our felt presence! When in pain or confused, people long for that someone who falls to the earth beside us, picks up our torn, broken and bleeding spirits, and says, “Oh, but it does matter. It matters eternally.”

ON GRATITUDE AND MERCY

One day, there was great commotion outside the Elders cell: two swallows had started a fierce fight with each other! The Elder was troubled. He went outside and beheld a distressing spectacle: the stronger swallow was attacking the other with its beak and literally plucking out its feathers. Without wasting any time, he chased the stronger swallow away. He lovingly took the injured bird in his hands and rescued it; as a result of his nursing, it survived.

Thereafter, just as the lion of St. Gerasimos used to follow the Saint everywhere, showing its gratitude and dedication, so also did this swallow: it flew in front of the Elder, fluttered its wings, frolicked, and sang.

One day, the Elder went outside, either to marvel at God in His works or to pray in silence. The swallow, his faithful friend and companion, was happily flying beside him.

The Elder sat down in the fruit-drying room a short distance from the monastery, and fell asleep without realizing it; but the swallow suddenly began to flutter rapidly above his head, chirping loudly, as if it wanted to wake him up and warn him of some danger.

And in very truth, when the Elder awoke, what did he see? A large reptile not too far away from him. His companion had in turn performed its own act of charity for the merciful.

Source | Archimandrite Ioannikios, Philaret of Kostamonitou, in Sygchrones Hagioreitikes Morphes—9 [Contemporary Athonite Personalities: Vol. IX] (Oropos: Holy Monastery of the Paraclete, 1983), pages 80-81.

THE FOURTH WISE MAN

In the mountains of ancient Persia, lived Artaban, whose study of the planets and the stars led him to predict the birth of the King of Kings. He sold his house and every possession and purchased a large sapphire blue as a fragment of the night sky, a flawless ruby redder than a ray of sunrise, and a lustrous pearl as pure as the peak of a snow mountain at twilight – which he intended to carry as tribute to the King. He then set out for Jerusalem where he had arranged to meet up with three other wise men, or Magi, to find the newborn.

After many weeks of difficult travel and frustrating delays, one night, he saw a man lying on the road. His haggard face, pallid skin and laboured breathing, bore the mark of the deadly fever. But, as he turned to leave, the man begged for help.

Artaban hesitated. If he lingered to minister to a dying stranger even for an hour, he could miss his three friends. But if he left now, the man would surely die. He turned to the sick man and carefully attended to him, leaving with him all that he had left of bread and wine, and his store of healing herbs.

“I have nothing to give you in return,” said the grateful man, “…only this: our prophets have decreed that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, not in Jerusalem. May the Lord bring you in safety to that place, because you had pity upon the sick.”

When he reached the meeting place, he received only this message: “We can delay no longer. Follow us across the desert.” Artaban backtracked to Babylon, sold the sapphire, and bought a train of camels, and provisions for the journey. He arrived at Bethlehem with his remaining ruby and pearl offerings, but it was three whole days after the three other wise men had found Mary, Joseph and Jesus, and had laid gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh at the baby’s feet.

In a little cottage, he met a woman with her son, who told him Joseph had taken his wife and child and fled secretly that very night; Herod was slaying all male children, afraid the promised ‘King’ would claim his throne. As she spoke, there was uproar in the streets as Herod’s soldiers searched each home to kill any male children they found. The terrified young mother clasped her child to her. But Artaban rushed to the doorway and held out the ruby to the soldier, who snatched it eagerly. “March on!” he commanded his men, “there is no child here.”

Artaban sighed: “Now two of my gifts are gone. I have spent for man that which was meant for God. Shall I ever be worthy to see the face of the King?”

But the woman, weeping for joy, said gently: “Because you have saved the life of my little one, may the Lord bless you and keep you and give you peace.”

Arbatan wandered for 33 years in search of the little family from Bethlehem. Worn and weary, ill now, and ready to die, but still looking for the King, he had come for the last time to Jerusalem. Hearing of a great person who was to be put to death that very day, and hearing of his life and teachings, Artaban realised this was indeed his ‘King’, but as he made his way to Golgotha, hoping his priceless pearl could buy the great one’s release, he saw a troop of soldiers marching down the street, dragging a young girl in chains. “Have pity on me; save me! I am to be sold as a slave.”

The fourth wise man knew what he must do. He took the pearl from his bosom. Never had it seemed so luminous and radiant as it was now. He exchanged the girl’s freedom for the pearl. His grief at not being able to see the ‘King’ caused him to collapse, but in his half-conscious state he heard a gentle yet compelling voice: “Verily I say unto thee, inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.” His journey had ended. His treasures were accepted. The fourth Wise Man had indeed found the King.

Source | Marguerite Theophil, There Was a Fourth Wise Man
adapted from the original story by Henry Van Dyke, The Story of the Other Wise Man

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ | Matthew 25:37-40 (The Message)
  • ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ | Matthew 25:40 (NRSV)
  • On his journey Artaban wrestles with what The Story of the Other Wise Man calls “the conflict between the expectation of faith and the impulse of love.”  Ought there be a conflict between the two?

CHIP IT AWAY

There is a story about a man who had a huge boulder in his front yard. He grew weary of this big, unattractive stone in the center of his lawn, so he decided to take advantage of it and turn it into an object of art. He went to work on it with hammer and chisel, and  chipped away at the huge boulder until it became a beautiful stone elephant. When he finished, it was gorgeous, breath-taking.

A neighbor asked, “How did you ever carve such a marvelous likeness of an elephant?”

The man answered, “I just chipped away everything that didn’t look like an elephant!”

James W. MooreSome Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, Nashville: Dimensions, 1994, p. 32.

  • “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”Michelangelo
  • “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo
  • “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”Michelangelo

REFLECTION

Every person is like a slab of marble, pregnant with potential and possibility. There is greatness and radical goodness within, but it has to be tapped into and gently carved out.

If you have anything in your life right now that doesn’t look like love, kindness, mercy and compassion, gently find ways to chip it away!  If you have hatred or prejudice or vengeance or envy in your heart, gently find ways to chisel it away, thus setting free the true identity of who you were intended to be from the beginning!