A frail old man lived with his son, his daughter-in-law, and his four-year-old grandson. His eyes were blurry, his hands trembled, and his step faltered.
The family would eat together nightly at the dinner table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating rather difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon, drooping to the floor. When he grasped his glass of milk, it often spilled clumsily at the tablecloth.
With this happening almost every night, 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 milk spilling, noisy eating and food on the floor,” the daughter-in-law agreed.
So the couple set a small table at the corner.
There, grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed their dinner at the dinner table. Since grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in wooden bowls. Sometimes when the family glanced in grandfather’s direction, he had a tear in his eye as he ate 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.
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 replied, “Oh, I’m making a little bowl for you and mama to eat your food from when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
These words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears streamed down their cheeks. Though no words were spoken, 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, grandfather 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 was spilled or the table cloth was soiled.
I see this often with parents who have young children. When the child spilled their drink or dropped food on the table or the floor, the parents tended to react with irritation or anger. Some even react with hitting or slapping. I don’t condone that kind of behaviour regardless of what you say about children needing to be disciplined when they do something wrong. Maybe I have a warped sense of reality but spilling food or drink hardly counts as misbehaving. Kids are kids, some lack co-ordination and others are playful. So what? If they are not allowed to be kids when they are kids, when can they be kids?
Sometimes we forget that we too were once children and we too will one day grow old but regardless of how young or how old we are, we are still humans deserving of love, kindness and compassion. Is spilled milk and a few broken plates really worth getting worked up for? Not to me.