I remember reading a short picture book as a child in grade school, and the message of the story remains with me to this day. I don’t recall the title or the author; many details of the story remain hazy. My efforts to re-discover the source has been fruitless, so I must paraphrase the story for you here as best as I can.
The story tells of a group of children in primary school. Every day lunch would be served, and milk would be provided in enamel mugs. Most of the mugs showed some wear from years of daily use, but one mug in particular was worse than the others. It was cracked and had recently acquired a sizable chip along the rim, and the child that received the chipped mug for the day would be teased by the others.
None of the children wanted to drink their milk out of the chipped, cracked, less-than-perfect mug. None of the children, except for one. One day, a small little girl, in a very quiet voice, piped up as the cups of milk were being issued: “May I have that chipped mug please?” She sat for lunch and happily drank her milk out of the cracked, chipped mug while the other children laughed and teased her.
At lunch the next day, she excitedly asked for the beat-up mug again. And so it went on, the small little girl happily drinking her milk with lunch every day. The chipped mug became special to her. Soon, another child asked for a turn drinking out of the chipped mug. Before long, the chipped, cracked, worn-out mug became a favorite of the children, and the child who received the mug with their lunch for the day felt quite special indeed.
So, what has this simple children’s story taught me?
Objects have value because we assign them value. The chipped mug in the story did not change. It did not mend its cracks nor replace the missing chip. It was not in perfect condition, but because of its cracks and chips, it became unique and special to one little girl. So it goes for everything in life. Things become important to us and bring joy to us because we choose them to.
Let no one steal your joy. The little girl in the story chose not to allow other children’s opinion of the cracked and chipped mug affect how special it was to her. I think this is by far the most difficult choice we have to make, but it can also be the most satisfying. Finding joy in the ordinary, the less-than-perfect, and the broken, means that you will never have a shortage of joy.
For change to take place, all it takes is one small voice. One small little girl found joy in a special mug and by choosing joy in the cracked mug, she changed how all the children viewed it. The chipped mug went from being an object of derision to a sought-after lunchtime favorite. Our pattern of choices, however small, have a ripple effect.
We must choose wisely; our children are watching. Seek out the imperfections, the unsophisticated, and the broken… and choose joy!