by Jude Fischer, former head of the gift shop.
Once upon a time a bowl was born. It wasn’t much of a birth. There were no long months of planning for his coming, no excited anticipation of what he would be like, no patient shaping under loving hands. Nothing.
Scarcely a thought had gone into his design and as few moments as possible into his making. The quick impersonal movement of a few machines, a trip through a hot oven, and there he was. Nothing much to look at, no warmth, no beauty.
Then he sat in a store and was soon bought, not for his looks, but because he was cheap and would serve a purpose. That he did well. Meal after meal, day after day, he faithfully served. For that was his call, to be a simple serving bowl. And all the while no one ever took much notice of him.
Sometimes after a meal he would sit around dirty for a long time waiting to be cleaned. Invariably he would be among the last of the dishes to be washed for the pretty delicate ones always went first. By the time his turn came the water would be dirty and cold, and it was quite unpleasant really.
The girl washing him would mumble and grumble the whole time about this unwelcome chore. The poor bowl bore it all so as to be able to serve once more. And so his life went, meal after meal, week after week, year after year.
Then one day his mistress walked in with a shiny new bowl. It had such a pretty floral design. "Just what I’ve always wanted," she said. "You’ll serve us well and be lovely to look at the same time." So the first bowl was packed up with a few other discarded items and sent away.
It was a long journey and so tiresome that the bowl fell fast asleep. When he woke up much later he found himself in unfamiliar hands.
He was plunged into nice sudsy water and washed up. This bath was quite different from any he had known, and for the first time in his life he actually enjoyed it. It was so refreshing. The water was clean and warm, and the girl washing him didn’t seem to mind the task at all. In fact, she hummed a merry tune all the while.
Then he was taken to a nice log building—a gift shop, it was called. A very special gift shop. Everything sitting on the shelves waiting to be sold had been donated, and all the money from their sale was given to the poor.
When he learned this, the bowl became quite excited. He really wanted to help some poor person by his sale. He sat there waiting for his chance, waiting for someone to buy him. But no one did.
No one looked at him twice. For he was so plain, so ordinary, so lacking in the most elementary charm and grace, and he was surrounded by so many lovely things.
Why, the vase next to him was truly exquisite. Just looking at it one could see the love that had gone into its creation. It must have been carried in the mind of its maker for a long time, tenderly brooded over as a design was perfected down to the last wee detail.
Then it was fashioned slowly, painstakingly, under a pair of warm gentle hands, and delicately painted with soft loving strokes.
All the time and attention lavished on its creation shone splendidly from its being and drew the attention of all who walked in. It wasn’t long at all until it was sold and its sale brought a handsome price to help many.
Then there was that little dancing figurine whose presence echoed the joy of its maker, and one could sense that sacred time when sheer goodness flowed from the fingers of its maker and came to dwell in this delightful object.
But as we said, poor bowl knew no such grace or beauty. Repeatedly overlooked, he nearly gave up all hope of being sold.
He settled into life in the shop. It wasn’t bad really. He enjoyed the care and attention paid him by those who worked there even if no one else took a second glance at him. He was dusted regularly and he liked the warm touch of the hands that held him so gently as they did this.
Often he was moved around from shelf to shelf and given new companions, and every effort was made to display him as nicely as possible even though it seemed to be to no avail.
After he had been there a long time, he was given another nice warm sudsy bath. He was quite content with all this for a while.
But after a number of years he grew rather wistful. This unexpected retirement had been nice, but after all, he had been born to serve, and he knew in his heart it was time to get on with his life of service. But still he waited.
Then one day he heard the people at work in the shop talk about a boy who needed a wheelchair, but had no money for it. The next sales in the shop would supply it for him.
Bowl’s heart jumped. How he would love to help the boy—and get back into service as well! But what could he do? No one ever looked twice at him.
Then he heard a woman walking toward him. He knew her attention would go immediately to that attractive tray at his right or to the elegant silver teapot to his left.
But she looked right at him, smiled, and said, "Just what I’m looking for; it’s just like grandmother used to have. So lovely, and you’ll do a nice job of serving my family as well."
Lovely? He’d never been called that before. Serve them well, yes, he would. But be lovely? Never. He knew better than that.
She picked him up and walked to the counter to pay for him. On the way he passed a mirror. The bowl looked in it and was amazed. For he was indeed lovely. Much the same, yet so different. Radiant! Why, he positively glowed, and his plain design sparkled warmly.
He couldn’t believe it! He’d never looked that way before. Then suddenly he recognized that what he was seeing was what he had felt all those times he was so lovingly handled by those girls in the shop as they washed and dusted and arranged him.
Their love had clung to him and filled him and subtly transformed him. And now, not only would he begin a life of service again and realize his dream of helping the boy, but from now on he’d give delight by his presence as well.
We, with our unveiled faces, reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect (2 Cor 3:18).
—From Be Always Little, (1996), pp. 23-27, available from MH Publications.
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