There is a powerful story about a child’s reaction to the way his parents treated his grandfather, an older man who was living with the family and who had undesirable and understandable trouble and challenges getting through life. Things like spilling food on the floor, knocking over the glass of milk or iced tea, and making grunting sounds while eating all seemed to anger the little boy’s parents which caused them to speak harshly to the old man on a daily basis.
One day, the old man mad a huge mess at the table which caused his own son (the boy’s father) to ban him from eating at the table with the rest of the family. Instead, he brought out a smaller table, very hard and uncomfortable, and gave the elderly relative a wooden bowl and spoon so as not to easily spill food upon the floor or make any further “messes.” All this the young boy watched in sadness as his grandfather was demoted to a corner of the dining room with an occasional tear in his eye. Later in the week, the father of that boy heard something in the garage. He went out to see what was happening and was surprised to find his son working on some project, very focused. He called out, “Hey Son, what are you working on there?” His son replied, “Hi Dad! I’m working on the table and bowls that you and mom will eat on when you both get very old.”
His father was completely astounded and stupefied. That very night, he discarded the crude little table and bowl and brought his father back to eat with the rest of the family. From then on, they didn’t seem to mind all the spills and noises and that little boy was happy to have grandfather back eating with them for as long he lived.
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” The power of example is as much a part of the teaching process as the very content of the lesson. This is critical to understand how our faith is passed down from one generation to another and how we will maintain our fidelity to the God who loves us so much. Jesus himself in the Gospel continues to expound on this very necessary requirement in our journey through life itself: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
A man once wrote to his teenage son: “God is the reason why even in pain, I smile, in confusion I understand, in betrayal I trust and in fear I continue to fight.” These are not just words if they are put into practice and lived as best as possible. You and I must remember even long after this life is over, that our children, students and friends will not follow our advice—they will indeed follow and remember our example.