Dec. 16, 2011: Each of us has the power to strengthen ‘one thin strand,’ by Sister Jean Rosemarynoski

He dug his hands deeper into his pockets and shifted his weight from his left side to his right then to the left again. Gingerly picking up a black knight he whispered, “They’re wood. My dad… my dad would love this.”

It was Manna House of Prayer, 1995, the first year of the Kid’s Holiday Store. He was about 15 – in trouble with the law, at school and at home. His dad was so angry – and so disappointed – in him that they rarely spoke.

Now here was the son, deep in his own pain at the strained relationship and infatuated with the wooden chess set complete with a smooth, wooden case to match. He spoke with one of the volunteers. He did not say much but seemed to need encouragement for what he was about to do.  “Do you really think it would make a dad happy?” he asked more than once. He would leave and come back several times, always hoping that it would still be there. Sensing that this was a significant gift and that the young man would be back, the volunteers set the chess set aside for his return. He had a special way with special wrapping paper he wanted it wrapped. He took his time and took great care in wrapping it with one of the volunteers. As he left, he was a mixture of pride coupled with the fragility that comes when giving a gift as a peace offering that says, “Dad, I really need you.”

That year there were many tender stories from the Holiday Store. But I was in awe of that proverbial thin strand that so powerfully holds us all together: There was the person who donated the chess set, the sisters at Manna House who hosted the store in those early years, the volunteers who delighted in each shopper and those who listened to a young man’s heart-felt plea that his gift be wrapped “just so.”

But what if someone had broken that one strand and not done his or her part? How would that have changed the story? How would that have affected our community?

The ending to this story is that the father was deeply moved by his son’s gift. Through tears and reconciliation, the son promised to do better and the father committed to being more attentive. They both kept their promises. The father taught the son to play chess and that was the entryway into healing their relationship.

I’ve thought of that father and son often recently, as we come to the end of the second Year of Peace. Once again there has been a resounding call for us to continue for yet another year.

People tell us that the Year of Peace helps create a sense of community, of belonging, of knowing that we are all connected by that one thin strand. So, the focus for the coming year will be building a community, bringing people together. Bob Steimel will talk more about that in a Year of Peace column next month.

The story of the young man from the Holiday Store is a simple one. None of the people who worked with him that day could have known the impact they would have — not only on the young man and his family but on our whole community. He kept out of trouble and was no longer in the court system; he concentrated on getting the most he could from his studies; and a family at peace within the home ripples out into the larger community. I was privileged to get to know the family to see firsthand how simple kindnesses – and a son’s courage — changed their lives.

My hope and prayer is that next year each one of us experiences the power of a community bringing people together by doing our own part to keep the strand from breaking. As this story shows, doing our part can be as simple as being attentive and responsive to the person we encounter. In doing so, may we see firsthand its power to change us all.


— Sister Jean Rosemarynoski is a member of the Leadership Council of the Sisters of St. Joseph and head of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee. If you have ideas or suggestions for the committee or want to get involved with the Year of Peace, contact Sister Jean at 243-2149 or, or any of the other committee members.



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