Sometimes a story says so much more than its actual words… Here are three short, short stories. After each one I’ve included a reflective question or two. These stories really speak to me. Do any of them speak to you?
The first story is from the French writer and aviation pioneer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Best known for his book The Little Prince, Saint-Exupery flew mail routes over the Sahara Desert in the 1930’s. He tells the story of three desert Bedouins who were given the chance to fly to Paris. These were three men who had never been out of the desert before. Their hosts proudly showed the men the Eiffel Tower, huge locomotives, and large ships on the Seine. But the Bedouins didn’t seem impressed with these marvels of technology. They wept, however, at the sight of trees, the river itself, and a rose.
Then their hosts took them to a beautiful waterfalls in the Alps. The three men gazed at the falls and were unable to speak. When it was time to go, the Bedouins refused to leave. Through an interpreter, they said God was revealing himself in the waterfalls. Honor required that they stay until the falls stopped. One of their hosts smiled and told them that this water had been running like this for thousands of years. Saint-Exupery says, the Bedouins were waiting “until God would grow weary of his madness” and turn off the falls.
What are we impressed with? What do we take for granted? And what makes the difference?
Isn’t there a certain madness in “the waterfalls of God’s love” for us, a love that God will never turn off?
A Franciscan priest serving an inner city parish told this story. A woman discovered some pot in her teenage son’s underwear drawer while putting his clean socks away. Furious, she stomped into the living room where her son was lying on the couch. She began to yell at him and even slapped him. Totally frustrated, she left the house in a huff and marched to the parish church a few houses away. As she was entering the church, she met the parish priest and told him what had just happened. “I came here to talk to God,” she said. Then she went into the church and sat in one of the pews. When she came out about 20 minutes later, the priest was waiting for her. He asked, “Did God say anything to you?” “Yes,” she replied. “God said: he ain’t all bad and I ain’t all good.”
Do we believe that everyone has some good inside and everyone has some bad inside—including ourselves?
Isn’t humility one of the signs of honest prayer?
This story is told by Rabbi Albert Lewis. A soldier’s little girl was sitting at the airport with her family and their meager belongings. Her father was being transferred. A woman passed by. Seeing the little girl sitting there, she patted her on the head and said, “You poor child. You haven’t got a home.” The little girl replied, “But we do have a home. We just don’t have a house to put it in yet.”
What does home mean to you?
I’ll conclude this reflection with three quotes about stories:
* The shortest distance between truth and the hearts of hearers is a story. (Anthony de Mello)
* A wonderful storybook lies buried under every tombstone. (Anonymous)
* After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. (Philip Pullman)
In one way we can say that some of the psalms are short, short stories. One of my favorite ones is Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” (I like it so much I just wrote a little book on it!) Here is a beautiful rendition of that beloved prayer:
Did any of the three stories touch your heart? If so, do you know why?
Any thoughts you’d like to share?
PS: Thank you for your prayers for the “Spirituali-Tea” last Wednesday in Bainbridge, OH. About 60 wonderful women came. Several were readers of this blog… I will be leading a retreat May 22-28 for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Cincinnati, OH. Once again I ask you for your prayers for this special event. Thank you very much!