On a solitary walk, I encountered two families.
The parents in the first family were upbraiding their daughter — about six years old — telling her to get back on her bike and that they were “sick of her”. The mother’s voice was raised, exasperated.
Who knows what general pressures might have been operating on this family or what other interactions had preceded this scene, converting a cheerful family outing into the journey from hell.
Many of us have possibly overestimated the capacity of little legs, resulting in public showdowns between exasperated parents and mutinous children. These little explosions can be seen (pre-COVID-19) all over the city but particularly at the Melbourne Zoo, where the long trek to the elephant enclosure has proved the downfall of many an otherwise cheerful family gathering.
Nonetheless, I wondered whether a little gentleness might have broken the impasse between child and parents that I had witnessed. Perhaps praise for the little girl’s progress to that point and encouragement that there was not much further to go might have prompted some renewed effort on the little girl’s behalf. Then again, perhaps it was just one of those days where the point of no return has been reached by all.
The second family group that I encountered consisted of a father on a bike which was attached to a baby carriage and a daughter (who also looked about six) riding beside him. The daughter chatted to her father as she rode, pedalling enthusiastically but making slow progress on account of her smaller wheels. Her father stopped frequently to allow her to reach his side before continuing again. It looked like a fun day out, not just for her but for the father too. Her confidence seemed to be in direct proportion to the gentle consideration he accorded her in checking in with her on a regular basis, as if her readiness to continue was a valued part of their expedition.
Gentleness has a powerful effect on those who encounter it, creating a safe harbour in which those who enter know they are free to be themselves. This, in turn, unlocks a sense of acceptance, tranquility and peace.
Christ understood our need for gentleness, saying: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
Such gentleness is much needed in our restless world.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.