The Tale of the Wooden Bowl

June 15th 2015, by Robert B. Miller

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 blurred, and his step faltered. During the nightly family dinner together, the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he tried to grasp the glass, milk spilled onto the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the regular messes. “We must do something about Grandfather,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”

The husband and wife decided to set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the table. 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 he had a tear in his eyes 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.

One evening, before supper, his 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.”

My wife and I each have one living parent, both of them in their mid-eighties.   After reading this story, I asked myself, “What am I modeling for my children in the area of honoring aging parents?” As many have experienced, some aging parents are much more challenging than the one described in the story. Does a high degree of difficulty relieve me of my responsibility? Larry Burkett and Ron Blue don’t think so, and wrap up the story with these closing remarks:

“To the best of your human abilities, love your parents, pray for them, and meet their needs as required through the Word. It may not be the easiest principle to follow, but it is God’s principle that you are to honor your father and your mother regardless of their actions.”

*A story that Larry Burkett and Ron Blue related in their book, Wealth to Last.