The Parable of the Spoon:
One day a man said to God, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”
God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.
The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, "You have seen Hell."
Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful stew that made the man's mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.
The man said, "I don't understand."
God smiled. “It is simple,” he said, “Love only requires one skill. These people learned early to feed one another. Those who are hungry are greedy people, and they think only of themselves.
Ordinarily, I trash this kind of thing. It’s simplistic and often silly and is supposed to make its mark like a sledge hammer. I prefer an inkling of thought, but this story in all its simplicity hit home just because it is so simple.
I thought about the children at school who are happy and well fed on treats and extras. They are the ones who bring the criers and the hurt to a teacher and explain the whole difficulty. They are the ones who think about snacks and cookies and ask for popsicles not for themselves, but for the whole school. They inform teachers of problems and who is needing what.
Tattle tale, yenta, busy body, you think. But look at what a child like that is managing. He or she is trying to manage his little world. He or she is trying to take care of his needs and the needs of those who surround him.
Charity begins with an awareness of others, and because children are still emerging, developing, the awareness will not be esoteric or all encompassing. It will be pointed at the obvious, the everyday needs of those around them.
When you watch the selfish kids, you understand how they fit into the world as well. They are the kids who make the criers cry and are the reason the hurt have to be brought to a teacher. They are the ones who upset the applecart, not for the other kids, but for themselves.
If there are two candies on a table, they will grab them both instinctively. One wonders if selfishness is a learned trait or a natural one.
The me first and me only personality take a huge toll on a group, in childhood as well as in adulthood. The whole learning lesson seems to be teaching a child to share. And too often a child thinks that sharing includes him first.
Sharing often means going without, and that’s a big lesson for a child. This week we have a hundred new toys arriving at the school that we won in a toy contest. That means each child will be allowed to play with three brand new toys never played with before.