A few years ago, I was in a family restaurant that provides drawings for children to color and a bowl full of crayons. Across the aisle was a couple with two young boys. While the parents put in their order, the boys started coloring.
The boy who appeared to be a couple years younger took a crayon and used it, then put it back in the bowl and swapped it for a different color. The older one went about it differently. When he was done with a crayon, he would set it beside him. Soon, he had built up a stash of crayons, some of which his brother needed for his own drawing. The brother complained, and the mother intervened.
You have to share them, she told the older son.
The boy shielded the crayons with his arm and said loudly, "No! These are MY crayons!"
Is there a parent who hasn t had to remind their children that they re not the only ones who matter?
"They re not your crayons," the mother said. "Theyre meant for you to share with your brother."
That moment has stuck with me as a real-life parable about owning and sharing. I thought about it the other day when I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a minivan that said: Don t Share My Wealth, Share My Work Ethic!
We hear that a lot these days. There s a suggestion that we deserve everything we have and that we should use everything for ourselves. Like the older brother in the restaurant, those who have a longer reach or faster arms they are entitled to their stash. The younger brother is simply out of luck — and crayons. And it s his own fault — he should have put more effort into grabbing crayons.
We all need to be reminded: They re not our crayons. They were given to us to share. Put them back in the bowl for others to use, too.
All that we have is given to us — life, love, compassion, our very existence. None of it is earned. Each breath is a freely given gift, each heartbeat a moment of divine grace, each day another opportunity that none of us earns in any way.
They re not our crayons. We may use them, but we must share with others so they can color their own pictures.
Wasn t this the central theme to Jesus message about the kingdom of God — unlike human kingdoms, we re all equal citizens in the divine one? We all come from the same womb — from God s womb — and that makes us all brothers and sisters in the deepest sense. And that means we must care for one another. Love one another. Encourage one another. Help one another. Forgive. Accept. Include. Be compassionate. Especially, look after those who are having a hard time. Don t judge, but help. Share everything.
In one of the most challenging Gospel stories, a rich man comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to be more like God. Jesus says he must change his values and share everything he has with those who are in need. The man can t bring himself to do it. He thinks they are his crayons.
They are not our crayons. They are God s crayons. But this is our family, and we must share.
Joe Kay is a professional writer living in the Midwest.
Photo: Crayons, ©