A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law and a four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred and his step faltered.
The family ate 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 onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, often milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.
“We must do something about father,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating and food on the floor.”
So, the son and daughter-in-law set a small table in the corner. There, the old man ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the dinner table. Since grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. 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 responded, “Oh, I am 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.
The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the son took father’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 son nor daughter-in-law seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
We should remember that when we were infants and kids, our parents looked after us and cleaned up the mess we created. Now that they are in the twilight of their lives and may be a bit sloppy, it is our duty to look after them. Who knows when we grow old we may be even worse than they are.
Children are remarkably perceptive. Their eyes ever observe, their ears listen and their minds ever process the messages they absorb. If they see us patiently provide a happy home atmosphere for family members, they will imitate that attitude for the rest of their lives. The wise parent realizes that every day building blocks are being laid for the child’s future.
Let us all be wise builders and role models for our children.