As a parent, I’ve found that some of the most problematic relationships for my children to work with are those with their own siblings. After all, the kids are together all day, playing (and arguing) and trying to live together. Your close relationships can be bumpy and filled with times where it’s a struggle. Still, I want to encourage them to love each other, so I found a story to share with them about putting their siblings’ needs before their own.
It’s an older story, so I’m probably going to tell it badly, but here’s my best go at telling you the story. I originally found it in The Children’s Book of Home and Family, so if you’re looking for a nice illustrated version, this is my source. Here goes the story:
There were two brothers who worked a common field and mill. Each night, as they finished work, they would divide their grain up evenly so that each could carry his share home. One brother was single, but the other brother had a wife and a large family. Each brother started to think about the other.
The single brother realized that the brother who had a large family might need more grain to be able to support and care for his family. So, he devised a plan to help make sure that all the mouths were fed. He started creeping across to his brother’s grain stores at night and depositing some extra grain into his brother’s share so that his brother’s family would not go hungry.
Around the same time, the older brother began to be concerned about his younger brother. He realized that, without a wife and children, his brother had no one to care for him in his old age. He decided that he needed to start taking some of his grain and putting into his brother’s stores so that his brother could have extra wealth put away to take care of himself in his old age.
So, both brothers were sneaking around in the middle of the night to each other’s houses to secretly give each other grain. Surprisingly, when they got back to their own grain storage each night, they would find that their grain stores were just as full as they had left them. Although they had no explanation for this, they continued to sneak across to each other’s storage to give them grain each night.
One night, as they were on their nightly visits, they accidentally met up with each other between the two granaries and realized what each other was doing. They embraced each other, and as the legend goes, God was watching on and said, “This is the spot–the holy place–the place of love where my temple shall be built.”
I told this story to my children with the intention that is was for them. They should learn to consider their brother’s needs before their own. Then, I encountered it again in the book Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? and realized that God might have drawn me to the story for myself. I thought of my own selfishness, my own need for my needs to be met, and I could have cried. After all, the love of God dwells in you when you love your brothers, and I felt as if I had failed.
So, I’m practicing loving my brothers–starting with the ones in my home and working my way outward. After all, loving your brothers should begin with the ones you’re closest too, just like my children should start with their earthly brothers and sisters (and me and their Dad) and work their way out into the greater world.