An Unusual Gift From My Grandfather

Rachel Naomi Remen

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Image of the WeekOften, when he came to visit, my grandfather would bring me a present. These were never the sorts of things that other people brought, dolls and books and stuffed animals. My dolls and stuffed animals have been gone for more than half a century, but many of my grandfather's gifts are with me still. 

Once he brought me a little paper cup. I looked inside it expecting something special. It was full of dirt. I was not allowed to play with dirt. Disappointed, I told him this. He smiled at me fondly. Turning, he picked up the little teapot from my dolls' tea set and took me to the kitchen where he filled it with water. Back in the nursery, he put the little cup on the windowsill and handed me the teapot. "If you promise to put some water in the cup every day, something may happen," he told me. 

At the time, I was four years old and my nursery was on the sixth floor of an apartment building in Manhattan. This whole thing made no sense to me at all. I looked at him dubiously. He nodded with encouragement. "Every day, Neshume-le," he told me. 

And so I promised. At first, curious to see what would happen, I did not mind doing this. But as the days went by and nothing changed, it got harder and harder to remember to put water in the cup. After a week, I asked my grandfather if it was time to stop yet. Shaking his head no, he said, "Every day, Neshume-le." The second week was even harder, and I became resentful of my promise to put water in the cup. When my grandfather came again, I tried to give it back to him but he refused to take it, saying simply, "Every day, Neshume-le." By the third week, I began to forget to put water in the cup. Often I would remember only after I had been put to bed and would have to get out of bed and water it in the dark. But I did not miss a single day. And one morning, there were two little green leaves that had not been there the night before. 

I was completely astonished. Day by day they got bigger. I could not wait to tell my grandfather, certain that he would be as surprised as I was. But of course, he was not. Carefully he explained to me that life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places. I was delighted. "And all it needs is water, Grandpa?" I asked him. Gently he touched me on the top of my head. "No, Neshume-le," he said. "All it needs is your faithfulness."

This was perhaps my first lesson in the power of service, but I did not understand it in this way then. My grandfather would not have used these words. He would have said that we need to remember to bless the life around us and the life within us. He would have said when we remember we can bless life, we can repair the world. 

Rachel Naomi Remen is a best-author of many books. Excert above is from her book, My Grandfather's Blessings.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that all life needs is our faithfulness? Can you share a personal story of a time you felt the world repairing when you remembered to bless life? What helps you remember to bless the life around you and within you?

Add Your Reflection:

14 Previous Reflections:

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    On Dec 29, 2020 Kathryn Lafond wrote:
    When we show-up to be present to the life around and within us we are both blessees and blessers. The reciprocity of entering a dialogue with the natural world after we cleared land to build a new home made room for the plants that had been here to seed themselves once more. I now have baby trees coming up all over the property. I invited them back to heal the earth from my intrusion; to reclaim the open spaces with lush green life. Being faithfully and lovingly present even in interspecies relationships can amaze one with the miracle of new life.

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    On Dec 28, 2020 Beverly wrote:
    On my near daily tromps through the woods near my home I have a small practice of kindness that I offer to my fellow hikers who I am approaching from the rear. I always say "Coming up from behind, please don't be startled." One day I offered my practice to a more elderly than me gentleman. As he began to turn around he said "Oh I won't be startled." Then when he laid eyes on me he said "Well maybe I will." We both had a twinkle in our eyes as we both knew that he was referring to seeing a Black woman coming up behind him, a White man. There are not many Black people where I live so yes my unexpected presence sometimes startles folks. We both burst into spontaneous laughter and as I passed him and said "enjoy your walk." He responded "I will now as you have made my day a little less lonely." That was an unexpected watering of my little practice that I continue to offer wondering when I might make someone's day again. I love ... [View Full Comment] On my near daily tromps through the woods near my home I have a small practice of kindness that I offer to my fellow hikers who I am approaching from the rear. I always say "Coming up from behind, please don't be startled." One day I offered my practice to a more elderly than me gentleman. As he began to turn around he said "Oh I won't be startled." Then when he laid eyes on me he said "Well maybe I will." We both had a twinkle in our eyes as we both knew that he was referring to seeing a Black woman coming up behind him, a White man. There are not many Black people where I live so yes my unexpected presence sometimes startles folks. We both burst into spontaneous laughter and as I passed him and said "enjoy your walk." He responded "I will now as you have made my day a little less lonely." That was an unexpected watering of my little practice that I continue to offer wondering when I might make someone's day again. I love how Remen'sstory called to me to reflect on how I have and can continue my own gentle watering of life in all its glorious forms.[Hide Full Comment]

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    On Dec 23, 2020 Larissa wrote:
    What a beautiful way to teach the power of commitment and action. That believing in something and constancy matter in and of themselves. Beautiful!

    1 reply: Beverly | Post Your Reply
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    On Dec 22, 2020 Michelle wrote:
    So many important messages in this lovely story, particularly at this time of year when consumerism runs rife, the simple things are often the best: relationships, nature and nurture.

    1 reply: Amy | Post Your Reply
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    On Dec 22, 2020 Sepli wrote:
    This story brought chills, tears and hope. My son is 26 and he told his girlfriend he does not want her to rush around all over town to buy Christmas gifts for him and he no longer wishes to go to her family home because the pressure of these gifts is more disturbing to him than the joy of being with loved ones just because we enjoy being with them. I do not say I agree with his viewpoint, although there were many winters when I have agreed with it. There are many sides to giving and to a gift. To have a wise grandfather take the care and attention to helping his granddaughter experience how life works through attending to a watering dirt is a precious gift that I have now received from this author.

    Namaste.
    joseph

    1 reply: Beverly | Post Your Reply
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    On Dec 22, 2020 mamta nanda wrote:
    I love Rachel's books - the stories are deeply heart warming and healing. This story could be about any spiritual practice - all it need is our faithfulness.

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    On Dec 22, 2020 Jane wrote:
    I loved this piece. Such a wonderful way to teach the importance of faithfulness even when something looks like a waste of time or hopeless or silly.

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    On Dec 21, 2020 Doane D. Edward wrote:
    Beautiful! I loved this one so much, because I believe there are seeds all around us in the world, and that all they take to sprout and grow, is for us to care, with beauty and determination in our work and actions, because we have faith that the more beautiful world is there, waiting to sprout. Cheers to watering our cups of soil!

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    On Dec 18, 2020 David Doane wrote:
    To bless means to recognize and honor the sacredness of something. I believe life needs more than faithfulness. Life needs the circumstances that support it. For example, valuing and supporting the expression of God called the person to whom I was relating blessed that individual, and in so doing I witnessed what appeared to be the person repairing. What helps me remember to bless the life around me and within me is knowing that all creation is sacred, so it only makes sense to bless life, and blessing life is satisfying to me.

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    On Dec 18, 2020 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    This story narrated by the grand daughter is very timely as we are approaching the gift-giving Christmas time. The conventionalway of buying gifts is so terribly time consuming and people feel confused and inadequate about what to give. The spiritual approach for gift-giving is very simple. We do it as a service to God without getting anything in return. My experience of gift-giving is simple and uncomplicatedlike the experience of the granddaughter Neshume-le. I can easily relate to what the grandfather told his granddaughter, it is not the water the seeds need to grow but" Aii it needs is your faithfulness." Faith is the foundation of all relationships and of all spiritual practices. Blessing life is the most effective way of creating and nurturinglife in all forms-human and natural. There are times when relationships thin out or break up. Giving unconditional love from the heartbased on the foundation of faith repairs and heals our fragile relationships. Several years ago... [View Full Comment] This story narrated by the grand daughter is very timely as we are approaching the gift-giving Christmas time. The conventionalway of buying gifts is so terribly time consuming and people feel confused and inadequate about what to give. The spiritual approach for gift-giving is very simple. We do it as a service to God without getting anything in return. My experience of gift-giving is simple and uncomplicatedlike the experience of the granddaughter Neshume-le. I can easily relate to what the grandfather told his granddaughter, it is not the water the seeds need to grow but" Aii it needs is your faithfulness." Faith is the foundation of all relationships and of all spiritual practices.

    Blessing life is the most effective way of creating and nurturinglife in all forms-human and natural. There are times when relationships thin out or break up. Giving unconditional love from the heartbased on the foundation of faith repairs and heals our fragile relationships. Several years ago I had an agonizing and depressive experience in my life. It was a heart-breaking experience. It took time for me to recover from it. My deep faith in the goodness of heart helped meemerge fromthe hurting heart to the healing heart. It was a transforming experiencefor me.

    The best teacher is within ourselves. What we need is calmness,patience, empathy, compassion and above all faithfulness. Life offers many opportunitiesfor working on ourselves to repair and heal our relationships. It is a daily metta, loving kindness practice that heals me and others. It is blessing from the heart.
    May we relate to us and others with the loving light of faith and kindness!
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave'[Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Neelam | Post Your Reply

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