RESPECTING OUR SENIORS: THE WOODEN BOWL STORY
Recently I saw an online contest that asked for people to vote on which charitable organization should win a car. There were several contestants of varying types, from organizations that help cancer patients to animal rescues. Every day, a few organizations were selected to compete against each other in that day’s contest. The day I was looking at this contest there were five competitors, one of which was a non-profit organization that provides senior care, and another was a group that helps newborns. Given that I am a senior care and nursing home architect, and recognizing the importance of seniors to our society, I naturally voted for the senior care company. Yet when I returned to the site later in the day, I saw that the newborn group had won, leaving the seniors in one of the last places.
“The Wooden Bowl Story”
This result made me think of a story that I had once heard a long time ago called “The Wooden Bowl Story”. It goes something like this:
An old man moved in with his son, daughter-in-law, and four year old grandson. The old man was in poor health, his eyesight was bad, and his hands trembled. When the family sat down to eat together, the grandfather’s shaky hands and bad eyesight made eating difficult. Food fell off his spoon, and when he drank from a glass, his drink spilled on the tablecloth. The son and his wife quickly became irritated with the old man. “We must do something about this mess” said the son. So they put a small table in the corner, where the grandfather would eat alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since he had broken some dishes before, he now ate from a wooden bowl. When the family looked at the old man, he would sometimes have a tear in his eye as he sat by himself. Still, the only time the family would talk to him is when they scolded him for making a mess. The four year old watched this treatment of his grandfather and said nothing.
One evening before dinner, the father noticed the little boy playing with wood scraps on the floor. The father asked his son what he was making. The boy responded “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up”. Smiling, the boy went back to playing with the wood scraps. The parents were speechless. They knew what had to be done. That evening, grandfather sat at the table during dinner. For the remainder of his days, he ate every meal with the family, and no one ever minded the mess on the tablecloth.
Senior Care: Lessons Learned
Unlike other areas of the world where the elderly are respected and cherished, the United States has a different perspective. The initial treatment of the grandfather in this story embodies society’s attitude toward seniors. We believe the US needs to change its outlook, essentially rediscover a perspective that will ultimately enrich our lives and makes us all better and happier people. The parents in the story represent all of us while the old man signifies all the elderly. In this story, it was only through the eyes of a child that the parents were able to realize their error in the way the grandfather was treated. The child represents the pure honest truth, which freed the parents to truly see life. Children are remarkably perceptive, and if they see us patiently provide a comfortable atmosphere for our older family members, they will imitate that attitude for the rest of their lives.
Going back to the online contest results, the fact that people chose to benefit babies over seniors is concerning, but not surprising. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against babies, but when people who have worked all their lives supporting our society need our help, it is an honor to provide it. Think of all the war veterans, teachers, nurses, doctors, and firemen that have fought for us and are now getting older. It is the least we can do to show our appreciation for all they have given us.