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 was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate meals together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his plate onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, 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 husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. 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 eye 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, 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 in when I grow up'. The four year old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents so 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 husband took Grandfather'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 husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
This tale really touched my heart. Perhaps it is because I am getting older myself now, and I don't want my family getting annoyed with me. Not that they ever will. My sons were raised to be very family oriented and to respect those who came before. The innocent child in this tale was wise beyond his years. Young as the child was, he well aware that the way his parents were treating his grandfather was wrong, and he was able develop a plan to make them understand just how hurtful it was what they were doing, and his plan succeeded. Mom and Dad realized the error of their ways.
Too bad more people cannot be made to see. This disrespect for the elderly is evident every day when I travel to and from work. They are the 'invisible elderly' who struggle to remain on their feet while young, healthy people pretend that they don't exist. People look at them, but they don't see. Worse yet are those that take advantage of or commit crimes against those who are frail and elderly. Recently, here in the city there has been a rash of robberies against the elderly. The perpetrator is not content to just rob them. No, this sick creep have to physically violate them as well. I say when you catch them, lock them up and throw away the key. In fact, don't they consider that a hate crime, when one targets a specific group?
Many cultures, such as that of Japan, revere the elderly as the link to their ancestry and the wisdom of the past and support them in their later years. It's too bad that in our society, getting old is something to be feared. Hence, our elderly are neglected more than many other cultures in which old people are well respected and valued for their experience. All too often, they are dismissed as a burden, and the children they bore and sacrificed for, stick them into homes.
'The Wooden Bowl' reminds me that we should never forget to show those around us that we love them and appreciate them; it also teaches us the lesson to love, respect and give value to our elders, because without them, there would be no us. The only way we could thank them is to give them the love, respect, and treatment that they deserve – unconditionally.