From 17th century Japan comes the story of Tama – an indolent bobtail cat that lived in the Gotokuji Temple in Edo (Tokyo), Japan.
Tama was a source of continual frustration for the temple priest. The Gotokuji Temple was impoverished and badly in need of repair, and Tama contributed nothing. She didn’t catch mice. She didn’t catch the rats. In fact, Tama never seemed to do anything but sleep and eat. Day after day the priest scolded Tama for her laziness. To the priest Tama was a good-for-nothing free-loader.
Then one night during a furious thunderstorm a powerful feudal lord, Naotaka Ii, sought shelter beneath a tree near the temple gate. Awakened by the storm, Tama wandered out to the gate, saw the Samurai lord, and raised her paw. To Lord Ii it looked like the cat was inviting him into the temple – in Japan, the hand raised with palm exposed, was the sign of invitation.
Intrigued by the “beckoning cat,” Lord Ii walked toward her for a better look. A moment later a bolt of lightning struck the tree and ground where he had stood to find shelter from the storm. The beckoning cat had saved his life!
Convinced that Tama had brought him luck, Lord Ii adopted her as his own. He also made the impoverished temple his family temple and became its benefactor – repairing it and endowing it with many gifts. Life turned from night to day for the old priest. And when Tama died many years later, the priest buried her with great honor and created a statue in her memory – the Maneki Neko or “Beckoning Cat.” Today the Maneki Neko, a cat figuring with either its right paw raised (signifying good fortune) or its left paw (inviting customers), is one of the most familiar icons from Japan.
Tama is like many people we know, people who irritate us, who seem to have no redeeming quality, who seem good-for-nothing. But no such person exists. For God has a purpose and a plan for each of our lives and has placed us on this earth to make some contribution. Sooner or later the very person we despise will prove their worth and we will regret our criticism and condemnation. The Scripture says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
Dear Father in heaven, Please help me to control my critical spirit and my hurtful tongue. Open my eyes and help me to understand the worth and appreciate that contribution of all people. Amen.
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