Grandpa and grandson walked in a park and came to a pond. There were many children who swam their remote-controlled boats.
Grandson looked at the shiny boats and how children were racing them, making waves, chasing each other´s boats. The water was broken into tiny waves that glistened in the sunlight. It looked so much fun. He could hear the laughter and shouts of the other children and his heart felt heavy.
Grandpa and grandson stood there for a good while, not speaking.
The little boy knew there was no way his parents could afford to buy him such a boat. And grandfather for sure had no chance of giving such a gift. His pension was so small the boy´s mother had invited him to live with them. The boy had heard mother say to daddy that if grandfather paid his rent he didn´t have enough money to eat and it was the right thing to do to ask him to come and live with them.
Grandpa looked at his grandson, saw the sombre look on his face and felt the little boy's envy. He looked around until his eyes fell on a bench right next to a big pine tree.
"Why don´t we sit here," grandpa said and started walking towards the bench.
Grandfather and grandson walked together to the bench and sat down. The little boy sighed deeply, his eyes following the boats.
"Grandpa… I would so like to have a boat like that," he said quietly.
"I know, I know…" grandfather patted the boy on the shoulders with a manly gesture, "Sometimes life feels so unfair, I know."
He bent over and picked something from the ground. A big piece of pine bark had fallen from the huge tree by their bench. Maybe the squirrels had dropped it when they were running around the tree, chasing one another. The boy could hear them making tsk tsk -noises above them even now. He looked up but the tree was so bushy he couldn´t see a thing.
For a while both grandpa and grandson looked up into the deep green of the pine tree.
Then grandfather took a little pocket knife and started to carve the bark delicately. Grandson looked curiously at what he was doing. He carved the sides of the bark to a shape of a leaf, the other end was pointed, the other was flat. Then, with the tip of the knife, he carefully carved a tiny hole in the middle of the bark. It was a perfect round little hole, the boy noticed.
Grandpa raised his eyes from his work and looked around.
"There - go and get me that twig on the ground, would you? My knees won´t bend anymore, I can´t get it up myself."
The boy hopped down from the bench and went to fetch the twig grandpa had pointed at.
"Perfect," the old man said, "Straight and strong and not too dry so it would snap. Good! Now scoop some resin from the pine tree on the other end of the stick. Be careful not to get your clothes dirty! That´s right, thank you!"
Grandpa had to make the tiny hole a bit larger, but soon he managed to put the stick into the hole. Some of the resin was squeezed out from the hole, but grandpa seemed pleased. Then he looked around again.
"There! Bring me that twig! And some of that grass."
The little boy ran to the next twig, scooped a handful of grass and brought them to grandpa. This was getting interesting. He edged in even closer and soon grandpa and grandson were sitting there, both heads bent over what grandpa was doing.
First grandpa cut the long twig into two. Then he made a small rope out of grass and used it to tie the first twig horizontally to the twig that was standing vertically from the bark. It formed a broad cross. Then he did the same with the other twig, this time he tied it to the base of the standing twig.
"I need you to promise you won´t tell your mother what I shall do now," grandpa winked at the boy.
"I promise!" The little boy said eagerly. A little conspiracy was always fun.
Grandpa reached for his pocket and out came a handkerchief with some lace around it. The boy sniggered.
"Oh I know," grandpa sighed, "As dear as your mother is to me, she doesn´t quite understand we men are not too keen on lace… But this time it comes in handy. Just look!"
Grandfather threaded the handkerchief to the mast - for it was a mast - using grass that fit nicely through the lace. First along the upper beam, then the lower one. And suddenly they had a big bark ship with a beautiful white square sail.
"Now, lets see how this swims! Put it in!"
Grandpa gave the ship to the boy. Together grandpa and grandson walked to the water´s edge.
The boy carefully lowered the boat into water. A remote-controlled boat curved by, raising waves that splashed their boat wet.
"Oh no!" the boy cried.
Out of nowhere came a cool breeze and the sail caught the wind. First slowly, then faster the boat braved the open waters. It looked so different from all the battery operated boats people started pointing at it from the shores. Some boats came near but not one collided with the bark boat. It floated like a feather on the waves.
They stood there, grandpa and grandson, for a long long time, watching how the breezes carried the boat around the pond. And then, like a miracle, the winds drove the boat right back to them.
The boy took the boat from the water and looked at grandpa with eyes that were no longer envious but full of joy.
"They are great, aren´t they, those expensive boats," grandpa said to the boy, "But I hope you remember one thing from all of this. When you looked at those other boats, they were steered by people like you and me. They collided with each other, they ran ashore. You saw how the batteries run out on two of them, didn´t you?"
The boy nodded.
"Our boat, on the other hand, was remote controlled by another source entirely. One that never runs out."
"Well, you call it wind. But who gave that wind? Who remote controlled our boat so that it sailed proudly for an hour and then came back safely?"
The little boy looked at his grandpa.
"I didn´t see anyone," he said.
Grandpa smiled and ruffled his hair.
"Our boat was remote controlled by God himself. We humans make errors, we collide, we run ashore, our energies run out when we try to control everything. But when we give up our need to control and let God steer our boat, it's journey is a wonder to look at. Will you promise to remember this story all your life?"
"I promise!" the little boy said.
"And now I believe it is time to move on. I do believe someone is selling ice cream somewhere in this park, and I am sure you could use one."
"Yes! Yes!" The little boy jumped up and down, all previous sadness and envy gone.
And so grandpa and grandson walked away from the pond, the little boy holding the bark ship carefully in his arms.
This story of grandpa and grandson illustrates an all-too common thing in today's world: our need to control everything.
And yet this is not possible. We simply cannot control all the circumstances in our lives. So how about letting go, going with the flow? It can be such a relief, to decide we don´t need to control everything.
It takes some learning, but can be done. A religious friend of mine uses the "Let go and let God" -phrase. Her life has been such a turmoil it is amazing how she has remained calm and centered. But with this kind of attitude I think it is possible.
So maybe the story of grandpa and grandson and the boat that was steered by God could be your tool to relax and let go?