COMMENTARY 975.4: A Parent’s Love for the Family Treasure

There are all kinds of love. The passionate romantic love immortalized and often fantasized by poets and novelists; Platonic love among friends, the love of humanity preached by missionaries and ministers, the love of country, and even the love of our work. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced all of these forms but none has impressed me more than the deep, enduring and totally unselfish love I feel for my children. That’s why I “love” this parable.

A 6-year-old girl I’ll call Sarah knocked over a display case that contained a much-cherished vase once owned by her great-grandmother. Her mom loved that vase and frequently referred to it as the family treasure. The vase hit the floor with a loud crash and shattered into pieces. Sarah, shocked and frightened at what she’d done, screamed and began sobbing.

Her mom came running into the room fearing the worst. Seeing the shattered vase, her heart sank. Then she saw Sarah sitting on the floor wailing. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m sorry, Mommy. I broke the family treasure!”

Seeing despair on her daughter’s face, the mother’s heart plunged further.

Faced with two powerful and conflicting instincts – one toward anger and blame, the other toward compassion and forgiveness, she sat next to Sarah, pulled her on her lap, and kissed her tears. “Sweetheart, when I ran in here, I was terrified that something bad had happened to our family’s most precious treasure. But thank God, you’re okay. Sarah, you are the family treasure.”

Sarah’s mom turned what could have been a painful incident and a lifelong source of guilt into an enduring source of affirmation and worthiness.

I wonder if I would have had the presence of mind to realize in the instant after an upsetting event that I could choose my reaction and that my choice would have a permanent impact on someone I love.

The reaction of Sarah’s mom was nothing short of heroic and stands as a reminder that, even in the face of powerful emotions, we do have choices — and they really matter.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 4

  1. Reminds me of this story (I always thought it was a about Albert Schweitzer and his mother…?):

    I recently heard a story about a famous research scientist who had made several very important medical breakthroughs. He was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter who asked him why he thought he was able to be so much more creative than the average person. What set him so far apart from others?
    He responded that, in his opinion, it all came from an experience with his mother that occurred when he was about two years old. He had been trying to remove a bottle of milk from the refrigerator when he lost his grip on the slippery bottle and it fell, spilling its contents all over the kitchen floor—a veritable sea of milk!
    When his mother came into the kitchen, instead of yelling at him, giving him a lecture, or punishing him, she said, “Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you have made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has already been done. Would you like to get down and play in the milk for a few minutes before we clean it up?” Indeed, he did. After a few minutes, his mother said, “You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up and restore everything to its proper order. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a sponge, a towel, or a mop. Which do you prefer?” He chose the sponge and together they cleaned up the spilled milk.
    His mother then said, “You know, what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big milk bottle with two tiny hands. Let’s go out in the back yard and fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it.” The little boy learned that if he grasped the bottle at the top near the lip with both hands, he could carry it without dropping it. What a wonderful lesson!
    This renowned scientist then remarked that it was at that moment that he knew he didn’t need to be afraid to make mistakes.Instead, he learned that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new, which is, after all, what scientific experiments are all about. Even if the experiment “ doesn’t work,” we usually learn something valuable from it.
    Wouldn’t it be great if all parents would respond the way Robert’s mother responded to him?

  2. What Will Matter | COMMENTARY 922.4: A Parent’s Love for the Family TreasureA beautiful and fitting parable. Thank you.

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