There is a very old Chinese story I heard years ago on a flight from Tri-cities, TN to Atlanta, GA. My seatmate was storyteller/author, and UNESCO ambassador for the US, Laura Simms. Laura had just finished her third trip to East Africa where she exchanged stories with others in various settings in an effort to learn from one another and build a more connective future between the US and Africa.
She told me, “The power and wealth differentials were palpable. But the more present I was as a listener and learner, the more common ground we found we could build upon.” And then she told me this story.
Many years ago, the ruler of a large kingdom approached his three daughters and told them he would be leaving the kingdom for a period of time and not sure about his return. It could be years, in fact. But he added, “I am leaving you with a gift to help you rule in my absence. What you do with that gift is up to you. But in my absence, I hope you discover your own gifts and what they mean for you and for this kingdom. What we do with our gifts is the true test of the kingdom’s flourishing.”
Then he handed each of them a single grain of rice. Placed it in their hands, bowed and then kissed each on the cheek, and then started down the road. Each daughter in turn, responded to the gift differently.
One daughter looked at the grain of rice with a sense of wonder and awe, thinking it very special. And so to honor the gift, and remember her father by it, she placed it in a magnificent, hand-carved box and placed it in the main receiving hall where guests could view it.
Another daughter was a little insulted by the gift. So, she casually set it on a table and forgot about it.
The third daughter pondered the gift for some time, days and days in fact. And then one day, she realized why something so simple could be so special to her father.
Three years later, the ruler returned and asked his daughters about the gift he had given them. The first daughter quickly handed him the beautifully carved box with the object of adoration inside. The second could not find the original grain (which had long since fallen from the table and was swept up with the dirt). So, she went to the cupboard and picked up another and sheepishly gave it to her father. But the third daughter said, “I am sorry, but I no longer have that grain of rice.”
“What did you do with it?“ the ruler inquired curiously. “Did you lose it, too?”
“No,” she said humbly. “I thought about it for a long time. And then I realized that a grain of rice is a seed. If I could involve everyone in the village to join me in planting their grains of rice, harvest the new rice and then take some to plant new fields, we could eventually have an indefinite supply of rice for our future, and for future generations.”
Then she showed her father the rice fields in the distance, as he smiled broadly.
My friend, Laura Simms, told me, “The teller of that tale told me that all our gifts – stories, money, time, and even the moments of our lives – are like grains of rice. Alone, they can’t do much beyond serve our selves. But when combined with everyone’s gifts, we create a wider, and wiser, future together.”
When I told her that seemed pretty idealistic, she smiled and said, “I imagine that’s what the first two daughters would have thought, too.”
This Sunday, February 23, will be a church-wide celebration of our commitments to the future of First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth with our commitment to Phase I of our Next 90 Campaign!
For this celebration, all of the worshipping communities at FUMCFW, including eleven:eleven downtown, will come together in the FUMCFW Sanctuary at either 9:30 or 11:00 am to celebrate and participate in the possibilities that future holds for us all. And, just as importantly, for Fort Worth’s future. It is a plan that celebrates the width, breadth, and inclusiveness of God’s love and kin-dom, builder a wider and wiser community.
I hope you can join me as we celebrate our commitments together. The eleven:eleven revolution band will be there, along with Charme and I and the other worship choirs and leaders. See you then!
Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven
Sunday, March 1
The first Sunday of Lent with
Singer/Songwriter Elizabeth Wills!