As I think about grace I am reminded of times that my children were struggling. When they were younger and again in their teen years their struggle manifested itself through different forms of tantrums. These emotional outbursts are challenging to handle especially when my life felt a little out of control. A typical reaction is to stop the tantrum from proceeding further with variations of TIME OUT! It is within these moments, when our children/youth are at their worse that we need to offer grace. I keep this mantra in my head that says “A child needs to feel better to do better.” When we allow the bad feelings to come out our children will feel better. Like steam building up in your kettle, tantrums often are the result of feelings that need to get out and release the pressure. Our children are sending us clear messages that something has happened and they do not know what to do. Offering grace to our children when they are at their worse is allowing them to be without judgement and offering a place to be fully embraced, loved and supported.
Books and Stories
Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam
One snowy night, a fox loses its way, entering a village. Chased away by the grown-ups, Fox takes shelter in a greenhouse. A little boy sees this from his window. Without hesitating, he brings a basket of food to the greenhouse, where he leaves it for the fox. His gift is noticed and the night becomes a garden of new life, nourished by compassion and kindness. Princesse Camcam’s cut-paper illustrations, along with the beautiful lighting of the sets she creates, make the experience of looking at these illustrations both touching and transcendent. Their beauty and essential simplicity reflect the beauty of the story. The reader is left charmed by the fox and the child and thoughtful about the emotional lives of both humans and other creatures.
Blessing of the Beasts by Ethel Pochocki
Martin the skunk and Francesca the cockroach wend their way across the city to attend the blessing of the animals celebration on the Feast of St. Francis. They realize humans won’t appreciate their presence and find a creative way into the church.
The Water Bearer’s Garden From uu & me! Collected Stories, edited by Betsy Hill Williams (Boston: Skinner House, 2003). Used with permission
A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on one end of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it. At the end of the long walk from the stream on the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. For two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master’s house.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”
“Why?” asked the bearer, “What are you ashamed of?”
“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house.
Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work, and you don’t get full value from our efforts,” the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”
Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt sad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on our side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.
“We all have our own unique flaws. We are all cracked pots. In God’s great web of life, nothing goes to waste. Don’t be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and you too can be the cause of beauty. Know that in our weakness we find our strength.
Before eating dinner allow everyone to take a moment to practice being thankful and kind. Each person can say something they are thankful for that day, offer words of kindness to a family member or talk about an act of kindness they saw or received.
Let us enjoy good food and good drink, And let us thank all whose efforts have set them before us; Let us enjoy good companionship, And let us each one be good company to the others; Let us enjoy ourselves, without guilt, But let us not forget that many are less fortunate. (George Rodger)