COMMENTARY: Understanding Gratitude: Gifts From the Heart

According to legend, a young man roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher. After a four-day journey, he presented the water to the old man, who took a deep drink, smiled warmly, and thanked his student lavishly for the sweet water. The young man returned to his village with a happy heart.

Later, the teacher let another student taste the water.He spat it out, saying it was awful. It apparently had become stale because of the old leather container. The student challenged his teacher: “Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?” The teacher replied, “You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving kindness and nothing could be sweeter. Heartfelt gifts deserve the return gift of gratitude.”

I think we understand this lesson best when we receive innocent gifts of love from young children. Whether it’s a ceramic tray or a macaroni bracelet, the natural and proper response is appreciation and expressed thankfulness because we love the idea within the gift.

Gratitude doesn’t always come naturally. Unfortunately, most children and many adults value only the thing given rather than the feeling embodied in it. We should remind ourselves and teach our children about the beauty and purity of feelings and expressions of gratitude. After all, gifts from the heart are really gifts of the heart.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

 

Related commentaries:

Give Yourself the Gift of Gratitude 750.5 

Enough Is Enough 756.3

See the Gratitude Dance – it will make you smile 

TED presentation on gratitude 

Comments 74

  1. What an idiotic story. I suppose if the student had peed in the bottle, that would have been just fine, too?

    The gift was the water, which was foul, so what kind of a gift is foul water?

    It would have been better for the teacher to explain to the student his mistake and how to correct it rather than be deceptive and appear to enjoy something that was quite rank.

    The student would have learned that his leather canteen was not suitable for transporting water and so should be discarded or fixed.

    Honesty and accuracy are better than fakery and dishonesty.

    You took a good premise and mangled the possibilities for learning completely, Michael!

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      Tom – I’m sorry you did not find value in this parable but I implore you to be more respectful in your posts. This my version of an ancient parable that has provided inspiration for untold numbers of people. I found it instructive and uplifting and your perspective that its idiotic doesn’t change that. The irony is that I hope all my commentaries are thought of as gifts (this blog is a passion of service — i receive no compensation other than the pleasure of knowing i occasionally touch people’s lives). I understand this is a gift you didn’t appreciate but your harsh rejection of it suggesting I was or should feel stupid for writing it demonstrates the very lesson i was trying to teach. I wish you would see how hurtful it can be when one is literally ridiculed for offering an unappreciated gift.

      1. Michael, you have only yourself to blame. Don’t blame me. Your story states that it is better to be deceitful than to tell the truth.

        In this case, the truth might have saved lives, as the faulty canteen clearly turns good water bad…might even pass on a disease.

        Praising someone for a failure, even unintentionally, doesn’t improve anything. The student, blissfully unaware of the danger his canteen poses to others, continues on his way.

        The teacher should have shown appreciation for the gesture, but helped correct the bad situation, as he was the only one to know about it.

        I would think that the recent Penn State catastrophe would have taught you that addressing a problem is more important than a cover-up.

        That’s a much better message.

        1. its to bad that Tom didnt get it! Which most narrow minded people don’t. It’s like we misjudge people if they aren’t beautiful on the outside, but have beauty within. It’s like the Christina Aguilar song, “Beautiful”. There’s a verse: “I am beautiful words can’t bring me down.” Be grateful with who your are and what gifts you have. Always see the good in people. Even Tom.

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        2. This parable was used to teach gratitude. Parables are not true stories and may be used to teach all kinds of things. In this case Michael decided to use it for his purpose. You can take the same story and use it to teach about truth and addressing problems rather than cover up. You might have to adapt the story a little though.
          I really hope you can see the story for what it is trying to teach rather than just tearing it to bits. God bless and take care.

  2. I read somewhere a saying that said ” If you never learn the language of gratitude, you will never be on speaking terms with happiness. ” Seems to me that Mr. Vincent will go through life not seeing the forest but for the trees.

    1. Thanks for the insult.

      I suggest you check your *own* vision.

      I see the forest *and* the trees just fine.

      That was my point, which clearly you are incapable of ‘seeing’ for yourself.

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        Maureen and Tom, I appreciate that you are both engaged and that you stimulate dialogue. I hope you visit this blog and comment because you value what I have to say, if not in every instance, at least often enough to make your visits worthwhile. In that spirit please be aware of your tone that can be construed as self righteousness. Your opinions, without the personal judgments, are both more powerful and consistent wit the message of this blog. Maureen, I love your quote and appreciate your perspective but can you see how Tom could be offended by your comment? And Tom, please know that your response can’t advance understanding. Okay – I’m off my soap box.

  3. Michael,

    Your response to Tom was most appropriate. Individuals like Tom deserve our pity for they completely missed the point. It appears Tom can get past the physical object to appreciate the thoughts that went into the offering of the gift.

    Ray Kapahi
    Sacramento, CA

    1. I didn’t ‘miss the point’, Ray. The ‘point’ was incorrect.

      But, yes, I agree with you that I appreciate that the thought that went into the gift even though the gift itself was flawing (or even dangerous).

      Thank you for that, at least.

  4. So when (or if, as I do not know if Tom has children or not) Tom receives a gift from his child (we will use the macaroni bracelet as an example), does he explain to the child why he doesn’t like it and offer alternatives that the child should have given him?

    1. I tried to come up with something inspirational for Mr. Vincent to help him see the message of the parable. I can’t seem to find the words… Sometimes I just think there are people like Mr. Vincent who just don’t get it and never will. I can only hope that one day he will receive a “useless”, “silly” gift from someone that touches his heart, even if he feels just a twinge – and be enlightened. Until then Mr. Vincent, stay away from children giving gifts….

      1. You’re as crazy as J Woods! Don’t you dare tell me what to do.

        I hope someone gives *you* tainted water! Let’s see how ‘grateful’ you are then!

    2. What an idiotic comparison. A student presents tainted water and the teacher ignores the danger for fear of embarrassing the student and seeming ungrateful?

      That’s insane.

      Now you compare that to a child’s innocent (and harmless) gift? What a monster you are!

  5. I have read and been inspired by this parable before. Let’s not forget that this is a parable – a metaphor, not meant to be taken literally. It is showing compassion from one person to another without any harm being done. For me, these kinds of metaphors for life aren’t meant to be taken apart and analyzed. I can enjoy and be inspired by them for the intrinsic and important life messages they impart.

    1. I was thinking exactly what you wrote. A parable is meant to be taken figuratively, not literally. This is what we try to drive home with students when teaching them to read and look for the message. You need to put this in relationship to your personal situation. I liked the comparison to the macaroni necklace. There is nothing more precious than those gifts that are given from the heart.

  6. As is frequently the case in arguments like these, Mr. Vincent is ‘upping the ante.’ One of the things I learned early in being a student of Mr. Josephson’s was that we tend to catastrophize when arguing – with others, as well as internally. The initial parable didn’t say the water was tainted or dangerous in any way. Mr. Vincent has taken the argument to that level in order to ‘prove his point.’ Which seems very, very important to Mr. Vincent. Sad.

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    2. You’re incorrect, Linda.

      The initial parable said the water was foul.

      QUOTE:The student challenged his teacher: “Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?”

      Did you misrepresent it deliberately or by accident?

      So, no, I didn’t ‘up the ante’ and I await your public apology.

      1. Tom, actually the parable says “a young man roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher.” The water was not foul when he packed it. Therefore the intent was to share a tasty rare gift. While you can argue the point that the water didn’t taste like it should have once it reached the destination doesn’t diminish the intent of the gift.

        I don’t know you, so to make a judgement of you based on the postings you have made here would be shallow on my part. However, I have known people who speak much like the way you are posting and have found them to be very “black and white” people with no room for wiggle. The people I know who are like that are cold and unfeeling with no gray area to allow for other opinion. Right is right and wrong is wrong they say, yet when the tables are turned and they are the person who does the “wrong” they are quick to point out that there were outside influences that colored what happened. It is never their fault.

        It seems to me that if one looks at the intent and not necessarily at the gift itself, a wise person would allow a little gray area so that the giver (friend, parent, child, student) knows that gift is appreciated, even if just for the thought. I appreciate that gray area. It makes a gift go farther. It makes an ugly tie beautiful. A stick man a portrait. A poor wine more palatable. Water more tasty.

        I’m sorry that you feel as you do about the parable. We all have an opinion and you have expressed yours. My opinion is that you are incorrect. I might be wrong but that is my opinion.

        1. Your reply teaches as much as the original post. Someone I know often complains about the gifts his mother used to buy him that he never liked. He would have been much happier getting cash or a gift certificate to his favorite store. I have spent 20 years trying to convince him that her intention, or anyone’s intentions when giving a sincere gift, were noble and filled with love.
          I guess it takes selflessness and maturity to be a graceful receiver.
          I have many silly little things around the house that have no use other then remind me of the people who gave them, and those memories are truly priceless. I hold onto them not for their worth, but for what the givers have meant to me.

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            Love your comment, thanks. Can I post part of this as a quote (attributable to you, of course).

  7. As is frequently the case in arguments like these, Mr. Vincent is ‘upping the ante.’ One of the things I learned early as a student of Mr. Josephson’s was that we tend to catastrophize when arguing – with others, as well as internally. The initial parable didn’t say the water was tainted or dangerous in any way. Mr. Vincent has taken the argument to that level in order to ‘prove his point.’ Which seems very, very important to Mr. Vincent.

  8. Wow! I’m sorry, Michael.

    As I am a special education teacher, I receive a variety of blessings (gifts) from my students each day. Whether it is a kind word, success, smile, hand bump, or knowledge; I appreciate it.
    I think your message reminds us to be compassionate, conscientious, and caring. You in no way suggested that we lessen our expectations or approve bad behavior.
    In respone to Mr. Vincent’s comment about learning lessons; I expect that if the stoy continued, the young man would at some point take a drink of the water and realize his own mistake and appreciate the elder’s kind words even more. Thus, he would have learned two lessons instead of one. ie (1. kindness and (2. get a new water bag. And, he would have learned those lessons without being ridiculed…which could have possibly caused the young man to learn the “wrong” lesson and reconsider being kind to others in the future.
    Thank you for you continued uplifting passages, Michael.
    And, my final thoughts are: DNT TXT N DRV rememberalexbrownfoundation.org

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      Thanks for these thoughts and for your good advice. I take it Alex Brown is someone you cared about. My deepest sympathies.

    2. If the student tested the water before giving it to the teacher, he would have discovered the problem. Odd that he hadn’t tasted water from the bad canteen before filling it before, but that’s beyond the scope of the story (perhaps the canteen was new to him).

      But why are you ‘upping the ante’? I never suggested that the teacher ridicule the student.

      That’s called a ‘straw man argument’, suggesting I said something that I most clearly did not.

      That’s pretty dishonest of you…and not at all uplifting.

      1. Mr. Vincent,

        Indeed you did not suggest that the elder man ridiculed the boy. A better way for me to respond would have been to say, ” The boy would have learned two lessons on his own without perhaps feeling inadequate.”

        I assure you that I stive to be an honest person. I do make mistakes but, being deliberately dishonest is one I try my best to avoid.

        And, as we are all entitled to our own opinion, I did find the passage to be uplifing.

        I wish you may blessings, Mr. Vincent

        1. Thank you for the (sort of) apology.

          I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling inadequate, nor do I think that would necessarily have been the outcome if the student had tested the canteen ahead of time.

          He simply would have discovered the problem with the canteen and replaced or repaired it. Problem solved!

          It isn’t necessarily the fault of the student that his canteen is (or went) bad.

          The canteen is really an unnecessary complication to the story.

          A good canteen would have led to everyone happy…but that wouldn’t have made much of a parable, would it?

      2. You need to understand one point Tom. This is a parable. You can change the gift into just about anything and still understand. As a parent and teacher, I do not make a lesson about a gift someone has given to me from the heart. One flask of water will not contribute to a cholera epidemic let alone make anyone sick. If you can simply try to look at this through another set of glasses, you may just get the point.

  9. I found Michael’s commentary above to be a touching reminder of the importance of showing gratitude for a gift that is received, especially when the gift was given with the pure intention of showing love and respect, but I also understand the reasons behind Tom’s strong opinion regarding the need for the teacher, as the person who is tasked with providing guidance to the student, to tell the student that the leather canteen is not a suitable carrier for drinking water. Tom’s comments triggered a question in my mind for you, Michael. What would you find to be an appropriate response from the teacher if the student had stolen something and presented it to his teacher as a gift (with the same pure intentions he had with the water) and the teacher was aware the gift was stolen? Tom, I respect your opinion, but I think you’ve communicated it in such way that it’s disrespectful, which is never necessary.

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      If the item was stolen I would use this as an opportunity to teach two lessons: one about gratitude and the other about honor. “I am grateful and honored that you cared enough about me to want to give me a gift. Thank you from my heart, but please understand that just knowing that you value me and what I’ve taught you is quite enough. I love your intentions but I need you to understand how important it is to me and, more importantly to you, that you live your life with honor and make good choices. Expressing your love and gratitude will never require you to sacrifice your integrity. Please return what you took and promise me you won’t do that sort of thing again. I believe in you.”

  10. Um, I too thought this was a parable and read the water was foul tasting, but not “tainted” or “disease” causing. Ms. Morganstein, you made a beautiful point about those who insist on being right and/or proving their point. They often take their arguments to another level that had little to do with the original statements because they missed the boat in the first place.

    Yes, it is good to be honest…but would you tell someone who brought you a meal or baked you cookies (because they care for you) that this is the worst food you have ever eaten or it’s horrible if you didn’t like it? If your answer is yes, then I pity you and those around you.

  11. Mr. Vincent,

    I don’t understand your examples. The student wanted to give his teacher something special – a gift from the heart so why would he pee in a bottle? And what does Penn State have to do with this situation? Again, that would be a situation of a bad intention.

    Intention is important not only in the parable but in your intention in responding to the post(s). My perception is that you intended either to be funny (and it wasn’t) or you wanted to rile people up by being offensive. Since this blog is about character and ethics, perhaps this is something you’d like to examine further? I’m glad you’re reading Mr. Josephson.

    Michael, I want to tell you that I love the new format and that you respond to comments. Not all comments deserve a response, however!

    Best wishes.

    1. Well, my point about PSU was that the man who allegedly witnessed at least one incident didn’t seem to want to make a fuss about it…as if the safety of the child was less important than the ’embarrassment’ to either the university or to Sandusky.

      How that’s relevant to this ‘parable’ is that if the fouled water was dangerous, then the teacher was putting the safety of others below his concern that the student might somehow be embarrassed by learning that his canteen had fouled the sweet spring water.

      As for the student peeing in the bottle, that was satire, as if just presenting a gift made the nature of the gift itself irrelevant. Some other comments have suggested that I would denounce a child who presented me with a benign gift, which is idiotic and I have said so.

      I wasn’t trying to rile anyone up or be offensive. I thought the parable was flawed and highlighted the wrong character behavior (deceit instead of honesty) and said so.

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        Tom, this will be my last comment on the matter but I have now read all your replies. You say you don’t mean to be offensive and I’ll take you at your word at that but surely by now you have to realize that your manner of defending and attacking is offensive to many people. If you are expressing your views as part of discourse to stimulate respectful interaction I am all for that. But if it doesn’t really matter to you whether you are opening or closing minds it is a terrible waste of time and it brings a negative tone to this blog that is not in keeping with what we are trying to do. Please, please don’t instinctively respond to this with more justification — just reflect to see what if any part of my comments are worth considering.

        1. And this will be may last comment on the matter as well (unless others wish to insult me further, in which case I shall defend myself).

          I attacked your parable, not you personally (note that others have not followed suit).

          I used satire and sarcasm, neither of which don’t always come across in e-mail and that’s okay.

          I attacked its message, which is deceit over honesty, feelings over public safety. I suppose if I simply said that I wouldn’t have gotten all the vitriol.

          You have yet to address that and so we’ll never know your defense of that message.

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            Tom, I respectfully request you find another place to post. It is not what you say but how you say it that brings negative energy to the discussion. In a sense, this blog is my classroom and your participation is disruptive. Please do not post on this site in the future.

  12. I’m not sure if Mr. Vincent is actually being himself, or is being “Devil’s Advocate” with tongue in cheek, but either way he sounds like someone I used to occasionally run across in my past. Me. I would take a similar stand to ideas or statements I found “idiotic”. I have since learned that like forgiveness, the only person being harmed is the one who doesn’t forgive, or in this case the one who cannot and will not see the other person’s viewpoint. Keep up the good work Mr. Josephson, I like your style, and the fact you printed Mr. Vincent’s views and counterpoints.

      1. Good idea, except that my points are valid and I have nothing in common with a child having a tantrum.

        Perhaps you’re describe your own insulting behavior, Kay?

        I’m fine with being ignored. It’s a conversation, everyone is welcome and participation is not mandatory.

    1. Here’s what was suggested (for reference):

      So when (or if, as I do not know if Tom has children or not) Tom receives a gift from his child (we will use the macaroni bracelet as an example), does he explain to the child why he doesn’t like it and offer alternatives that the child should have given him?

      That was an idiotic comparison (a harmless macaroni bracelet and foul — possibly dangerous — water) and I said so.

      1. Dear Mr. Vincent,
        I believe the classification I would put your posts in would be, “contrary.” I don’t wish to offend you but I believe you have made your point. As Michael Josephson stated above, you are bringing negative energy into what is supposed to be a positive energy place. I note you ignored my comment which stated we are talking about a parable. I was correct. Parables are not to be taken literally, they give a message, which leads to discussion, in this case, about good character. I will admit (and I am not making a comparison as far as maturity is concerned) I have a student who is very much like you in my 5th grade class. He is a bright boy, but he spends so much time being “contrary” he often misses the point. I’m sorry to say that this has gone far enough that I fear you have also missed the point. I have often wondered why teaching figurative language, parables, etc. was so important. After reading what you have had to say, the reasons are now crystal clear. Thank you.

  13. I too feel that Mr. Vincent missed the point of the parable. While it is justifiable to let someone know something is harmful, this is an old parable speaking of water that tasted a bit bitter. While we have grown more health conscious in the present (sometimes rediculously so), this parable was told at a time when that wasn’t the main concern. The parable is sopposed to be something like when my grandma accidently used baking soda to keep the cake from sticking to the pan instead of flour…tasted horrible but not gonna kill you, but it was the thought that counts. Not necessary praise her for her culinary arts, but be thankful and appreciative that she made the cake for you.

    Another thing I really don’t understand is how upset Mr. Vincent seems to be getting over this…perhaps there is something else bothering him and this was the straw that broke his back. Mr. Vincent, I get your point…but the anger is really not warranted…and you really didn’t get the point of the parable (which is obvious in every word you have typed). Take the constructive criticism and perhaps you can move from being the student to the teacher 🙂 Perhaps it is as simple as stopping and thinking…is it necessary to mean just for the sake of being right? In some cases you WILL have to let someone know something is harmful…but even in those cases, a little TACT goes a long way!

    1. Nina, you reminded me of a great family story. My grandmother’s mother died when she was 8 and since she was the oldest daughter, she was in charge of keeping house for her 8 brothers and sisters. One Sunday, she decided to bake a cake for dinner for her father like her mother used to do. She forgot a key ingredient (which I don’t remember but it made the cake absolutely tasteless) but her father took a bite and declared it was the most delicious cake ever. Of course, he was praissing her efforts to give love and comfort to her family and some might accuse him of being dishonest but the end result was that she felt loved by her father.

    2. Nina, Your point is the one I’ve been thinking the entire time I was reading. We used to drink out of the garden hose every day when I was a kid. But we don’t DARE let our children do that today. It is an old parable. And people drank out of leather skins all the time. The difference is in how sweet the water tasted from the stream, and how it tasted days later from the skin. It wasn’t poisoned, it just wasn’t what it initially was. I’ve had great wine from one bottle, and bad wine from another. I’m sure it all started out delicious. The only difference was how the bottles were maintained; and how was I to know until I tasted. it. Doesn’t hurt anyone, but doesn’t taste quite right either! And we thank the baker for the effort in either case. I’m sure they already regret their error; why make them feel any worse.

      There was no lesson to teach about the leather canteen, in my humble opinion. It just was what it was… not a good preserver of brilliant spring water! And have you ever tasted water from a brand new clean plastic or metal canteen? YUK! No matter what you put into a canteen, it’s not going to taste nearly as good when it comes out; that doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Yet we don’t even think about that when we’re filling them, do we? We just want to be sure we have water when we’re most going to need it. If anything, the young man was naive to think it would taste as good when he got home. But — and this is the point — his heart was in the right place.

      And Michael, you have the patience of a saint! It was my blessing today from each of you to witness the kindness and patience that is possible when dealing with difficult people. All of your responses, Michael, were spot on!

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  14. Mr. Vincent,

    I do not consider myself to be a sycophant. I do appreciate (in my opinion) uplifting messages and will comment as time allows.

  15. First of all, we are commanded to fo the following..
    1 Thessalonians 5 – 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

    Secondly, a word to ALL of the wise……….

    Proverbs 8:5 O you simple ones, understand prudence, And you fools, be of an understanding heart.
    Proverbs 28:26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.
    Proverbs 26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.
    Proverbs 29:9 If a wise man contends with a foolish man, Whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace.
    Proverbs 20:3 It is honorable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel.
    Proverbs 16:22 Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it. But the correction of fools is folly.
    Proverbs 14:33 Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known.
    Proverbs 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, But the folly of fools is deceit.
    Proverbs 12:23 A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.
    Proverbs 10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of wisdom.
    Proverbs 15:7 The lips of the wise disperse knowledge, But the heart of the fool does not do so.
    Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
    Proverbs 17:10 Rebuke is more effective for a wise man Than a hundred blows on a fool.
    Proverbs 15:14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
    Proverbs 10:8 The wise in heart will receive commands, But a prating fool will fall.
    Proverbs 10:14 Wise people store up knowledge, But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.
    Proverbs 12:16 A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame.

    Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
    Proverbs 14:7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, When you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.
    Proverbs 23:9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words.
    Proverbs 29:11 A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.
    Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.
    Proverbs 18:2 A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart.
    Proverbs 19:3 The foolishness of a man twists his way, And his heart frets against the LORD.
    Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.
    Proverbs 14:3 In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride, But the lips of the wise will preserve them.
    Proverbs 14:16 ….a fool rages and is self-confident.
    Proverbs 1:7 fools despise wisdom and instruction.

    Proverbs 17:12 Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, Rather than a fool in his folly.
    Proverbs 9:6 Forsake foolishness and live, And go in the way of understanding.

    AND LASTLY:

    Romans 12:9-21
    9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
    14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
    17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[a] says the Lord.
    20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
    21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    AMEN!!

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  16. This was probably the most fascinating blog I have read in quite some time.
    I forwarded it to my administrators and our school social worker.
    I think almost every character pillar has been highlighted without that being your intention, or maybe through these sequenced antics and commentaries, it was your intention?
    Either way, I feel like I could teach character education to my students simply by sharing the remarks you have included from this sacred story.
    Wasn’t it Ram Dass who said, “We are all dealt a deck of cards, some good, some bad… It doesn’t matter what cards you have been dealt, rather what you do with your cards!” In essence, life is about perception… Thank you for presenting me with an option:
    perception built on wisdom or the choice to live in fear.

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  17. The story was meant to be taken figuratively, not dissected. My father was a very hard person to please or give a gift to. Tom reminded me of that. Honesty is important, but sometimes other issues are more important such as being grateful, generous, and accepting. When my sister’s friend asked my father how her hair looked for a wedding that she was going to, he said, “It looks like ____.” I am sure to him that’s the way it looked, but what about tact? Isn’t that an important virtue? William James said, “The deepest craving of nature is to be appreciated.” Marcel Proust said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” The real question isn’t who is right or wrong about the water story. The real question is: Tom, how many people have you made happy today?

  18. Tom, you’re walking on the fence. I thought you might do that. Very clever! But it’s really not a trick question. It’s a question of how we look at life. In recent years they have done more and more studies of the brain. And one of their major discoveries is that how we live our lives are more directly related to our gut feelings than anything else, and our self-talk, whether it be positive or not. We do become what we think and feel, or maybe it’s feel and think.

  19. Tom, you are a very clever reader. You found fault with the story. You’re right about the water, but many or most readers aren’t even going to think about that aspect of the story, right or wrong of the water, because the message most will get is: we should value the gifts that we get in the spirit that they were given. That’s all. Yes, it is an imperfect story, but the “message” is a good one.

    We hang up our children’s artwork on the fridge and treat them like masterpieces and show them off to company. Should we be honest with our kids and tell that their paintings are crude and more like a messapiece than a masterpiece? Should we get mad at them when they color outside the lines? Should we tell them again and again to stay within the lines?

    A story is a story. We all get different things out of a story. What we get out of it depends a lot on us and our own baggage. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you think the Master should be worrying about dysentery, fine. That’s a rather literal interpretation of the story, but fine. Others might see it differently. And that should be okay too.

  20. Tom, I actually can see your point. I get the point of the parable written and see what Michael was sharing. I have a point of view that often makes me see “what could be done better.” It is not always a gift. I find that I can cease to appreciate what others CAN or DO bring to the table because I see what they did not bring. This has served me well in some instances; working on event committees and such where the point of view towards improvement, can be woven in without hurting feelings. I have several issues of proud legacy that I made a positive impact because of this.

    Perhaps defining the foul water as dangerous was where you saw room for improvement. You see above that many did not define foul as harmful, but as tasting bad. We can extrapolate that the student had no reason to assume his leather canteen caused water to become distasteful. If this was the first time such had occurred.

    Perhaps the parable didn’t work as well as it might have; but parables don’t always. Their point ultimately is to change our perspective on an issue allowing for greater clarity or understanding. A different point of view can be elusive. You have the choice to share the error (hopefully in a kind and respectful way) and to appreciate the point of the story; which ultimately was the thought being more important than the actual gift. Or that the thought and intention of sharing something good is the gift itself.

    I struggle with this idea at birthday’s and Christmas because I dislike the idea of waste. If I cannot take the time to give something meaningful to another, (or they to me) I find it difficult to give something meaningless. This is my own struggle. What I got from the story was the graciousness of the teacher who addressed the intent of the student. That blessed me. I would like to receive gifts in such a manner; especially from my children. Then, at a later time, continue to teach my children how to give those good, thoughtful gifts that are in touch with the intended recipient. It doesn’t have to be the same event.

  21. Looks like I’m a little late to enter this one, but I just read this post and I’m new to the blog. My contribution is this….for the past 5-6 years, I have had lunch once a week at my mothers house. She’s 85 now. Either I, or my wife and I, and sometimes my grown kids, and even my sister and her kids will stop by with me. Now, I’ve often suggested that she let me take her (and my dad) out for lunch, but she insists on cooking for me. My mom is a good Catholic, Mexican woman who likes to dote on her kids and grandkids.
    Well, the only real problem is that when she makes Mexican food, it’s great…but when it’s not…it isn’t. She cooks chicken until it’s as dry as a bone, her pork chops could be mistaken for doorstops, and she overcooks vegetables until they are mush. But I love the fact that she can still do this and she loves to do it for me and everyone else. When the food tastes terrible, it is flavored by love, not ingredients. All of us come to her house for the time together, not the food.
    I am grateful for her efforts and her love. And besides, the food stories will be great fodder for fond family remembrances. I pray that she is able to do this for as long as she lives.

  22. So, I have a question. I would like help, please. How could Tom’s original and/or subsequent perspectives be conveyed in a more palatable way while still making the same point? If I understand Tom correctly, his boiled down point of contention was not to promote deceit over honesty in wholly good-intentioned situations but which rise to a level mandating correction.

  23. A very good, long time friend passed away and we jumped in and helped orchestrate the eulogy, and the funeral. We did it because we could and wanted to do something for our friend and his family. Two months later, we received a beautiful thank-you from the widow and a sum of money. We feel uncomfortable accepting money for something we did out of our friendship but also realize that the gift was their way of saying thank you and a very sincere manner. What should we do?

  24. A parable is not intended to bring out truthful or false senses, it is merely there to bring out discussion, and I feel that that is exactly what Michael did.
    It doesn’t’ matter how you look at it, it can be looked at for or against it. Everyone has shown passion for their side, and that is awesome, because what this parable did was what it was intended for.
    The way some attacked or were attacked will most definitely leave you, me, us feeling in some way small or large. Like a winner? Maybe. Again AWESOME!
    Michael Josephson, you did it again, you brought out the good and the bad, or is it the right and the wrong? I don’t matter because either way I get the parable.

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  25. Something I noticed is that the gift of water was presented “after a four-day journey” in the desert. This was not just a quick, convenient trip to the tap or the well. It was a significant labor. And even in the desert the young man apparently did not taste the water but for diminishing his gift.

    For me, this part of the parable underscores the young man’s commitment and devotion to giving a caring gift. In this season that is supposed to be about giving, I hope to have the same in my giving, and in my receiving.

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