There was a frail old man who went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and his four-year old grandaughter. He had seen better days and age had taken it’s toll. His hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.
The family always ate together each night at the dinner table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating rather difficult. Sometimes his peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he tried to grasp a glass, often milk spilled all over the tablecloth. He was embarrassed and would always apologize for being a burden to his son and his family.
The son and daughter-in-law grew tired of cleaning up after him and got irritated with the mess. “We have to do something about him and all the mess he is making every night,” said the son. I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food all over the floor. So the husband and wife set a second small table in the corner of the dining room. There, the old man ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the dinner table. Since he had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a small wooden bowl.
Sometimes when the family glanced in grandfather’s direction, he would look up and smile softly with a tear in his eye as he ate alone. Even then he would sometimes spill his milk and the son and daughter in law always scolded when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The little girl watched in silence and when her parents were in the kitchen cleaning up, she would quietly go over and without saying a word, put her arm around her grandfather.
One evening before supper, the father noticed his little girl playing with some pieces of wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making honey?” Just as sweetly, the little girl responded, “Oh, I am making some little bowls for you and mommy to eat your food out of 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 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 at all when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
Children are remarkably perceptive. Their eyes ever observe, their ears ever listen, and their minds will 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.