10th December & 11th December, 2014

In the recent past, a friend of mine sent me an interesting item over the Internet aptly entitled: When Insults had Class.

The first is from Clarence Darrow: “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”

The second is from Mae West: “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork instead.”

The third is from George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill: “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one.”  Said Winston Churchill to George Bernard Shaw in response: “Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend the second…if there is one.”

There was a long-standing rivalry between Sir Winston Churchill and Lady Astor – they truly detested each other like the plague. On one occasion, when Churchill had evidently pushed her over the edge of her tolerance, Lady Astor indignantly said: “Mr. Churchill, if you were husband, I’d put poison into your tea.”  To which Churchill gingerly replied: “And, madam, if I was your husband, I’d drink that tea!”

This morning I wish to share with you some personal reflections that I did glean from the international best-seller by the world-famous Brazilian writer, Paulo Coelho, and entitled Like the Flowing River. One chapter carries the intriguing caption: Lessons from a Pencil. In essence, Paulo Coelho shares five valuable lessons that we all can learn from the humble pencil, which we use so often and sometimes roughly. Here they are:

1. A pencil can enable one to write. However, it can’t do that of its own accord; it needs a guiding hand. And so, if we place ourselves in the hands of God and let Him guide us, we too will be able to accomplish a lot more. “Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not.”

2.  From time to time, we have to stop and sharpen the end of the pencil so that it can write even longer and better. So too, in our lives, we have to stop and think and check if we can do even better. This may mean a radical change in our thinking and the way we are presently living and functioning.

3. Occasionally we make mistakes when writing with a pencil. And so, we use an eraser to correct mistakes. Similarly, in life, we must correct our errors and strive to be even better than we presently are.

4.  What really matters in a pencil is not its attractive and colourful exterior, but the graphite inside it. So too, we all must focus more on striving to be a better person. That is all that really matters; externals are superficial and fleeting.

5. And, finally, we must remember that each time a pencil is used, it unfailing leaves a mark. In just the same way, we too should know that everything we do in life will leave a mark; so try to make it the finest and the best.

In a nutshell: “What we are, is God’s gift to us; what we become, is our gift to God.”Fr. James Keller, the Founder and Director of The Christophers framed our mission most succinctly when he said: “We all, both individually and collectively, have a mission in life to fulfil – a special job to do. Each of us can do something no other person can do to shape the world in which we live.” To repeat and to conclude: “What we are, is God’s gift to us; what we become, is our gift to God.”