Another character element in gentleness is outlook. As our character begins to change it has an incredible affect on our outlook, on how we see other people. How we see other people will determine two things: our attitudes toward them and our actions toward them. Our actions are largely influenced by our attitudes.
The Brothers Grimm put this truth in a rather stinging fairy tale. Once there was a little old man, of trembling hands and feeble eyes, whose uncertain table habits became increasingly offensive to the daughter-in-law with whom he lived, until one day she objected vigorously to her husband, the old man’s son. She and her husband took the fumbling old man to a corner of the kitchen, set him on a stool, and gave him his food in an earthenware bowl. Now he was no longer troubling them by his dribbled food; now the tablecloth was no longer soiled by his trembling behavior.
One day, in his trembling, he dropped the bowl and broke it. Now the daughter-in-law ceased even her moderate civility. “If you are a pig,” she said, “you must eat from a trough.” And they made a little wooden trough, and he ate from it.
The pride of their lives was their own four-year-old son. One evening they noticed the boy playing with blocks of wood in the serious fashion which children so often invest in their play. When the father asked what he was doing, the boy said with an engaging smile, “I’m making a trough to feed you and Mamma out of when I get big.”
For a while the man and woman just looked at each other, not saying anything. Then they cried; and then they went to the corner and led the little old man back to his place at the table. They gave him a comfortable chair, and put his food on a plate. And never again were they really, deeply troubled by the food he spilled or by the dishes he occasionally broke. They had learned that, in honoring a parent, they possessed their own future.
Just a thought from the front porch…