Gaining Strength from Inner Peace – story about doing the right thing (therapeutic story for adults)


Francoise uses her imagination


Francoise gazed across the street.  She could see trams trundling along, filled with the workers on their way to offices in the city.  A feeling of discontentment came over her.  There she was, compelled to stay at home and care for her aged mother.


“Francoise!” A tremulous voice interrupted her train of thought.  “Francoise, my bottle, it’s cold.  Will you fill it up for me, dear?”


I’m coming, Mother, just a moment.”


She continued to stare out of the window at the world outside.  Not for her the world of work; not anymore.  She had been a teacher until last year when her mother had fallen ill had come to live with her and Jan, her husband,.  She had always agreed with her mother that should the need arise her home would be open to ‘Grandmere’.  When her children had been young Francoise’ mother looked after them while Francoise was teaching in the local school.  It had been a great help to her.  She had been able to earn enough money so that she and Jan could buy their own house and take the family on holidays. 


The family had all left home, the youngest only last year, and Francoise had been looking forward to some time for herself; for her and Jan.


“What bliss,” she had thought, “I shall be able to work part time and perhaps paint my landscapes, and maybe even sell some.”


But it was not to be, not yet at least.  Francoise sighed and made a mental note that she must purchase some more coffee, and the detergent for the weekly wash was nearly finished.  That too must be added to her list. 


Drawing her hand across her brow to smooth the tense lines from her forehead, she walked over to the half-open door that led to her mother’s room.  It had been their dining room, but now her mother lived permanently in it.  Francoise sighed again as she pushed open the door to her mother’s room.  There lay the old lady.  She smiled as her daughter appeared in the doorway. 


“Ah, Francoise, there you are.  I was just thinking, it would be nice to have a lobster today would it not?  Take money from my purse and go to the market and buy one, there’s a dear.


Francoise looked at her mother.  She was very frail for her seventy -six years.  She almost looked transparent.  She still loved to think about food and to plan delicious meals, but when it came to eating them, she could only manage a little thin soup. 


Very well, mother, I’ll make lobster bisque for lunch.  Give me your bottle and I’ll heat it up for you…”


Francoise knew that neither could they afford to buy a lobster nor could her mother eat it.  But the old lady must be humoured.  Why argue?  She picked up the purse lying on the bedside table. In it were a few coppers.  Unnoticed by her mother Francoise put a ten-franc note into the purse.  She always topped up her mother’s money when she could.  It enabled the old woman to feel that she could treat the family to special things every so often.  Sometimes Francoise would buy the much desired treat, and at other times she would pretend she had, and would show her mother the empty packet or bottle, or in this case, lobster shell, and say how much they had all enjoyed her present.  This pleased Grandmere, being unable to participate in these delicacies, she was none the wiser.


Francoise tiptoed away from the room where her mother now lay asleep.  There was time to go to the market and buy some vegetables for the main meal.  No meat today as they could not afford it.  She would shake some fish sauce from a bottle into the soup, and ‘lobster bisque’ it would become.


When Jan returned that evening, Francoise was looking rather low in spirit. 

“Try not to let it get you down,” he said, giving her a squeeze.  “Is there not something you could do here at home, while she sleeps.  She seems to be sleeping more and more these days.”

“ I’ll try to think of something, Jan,” replied his wife, “I certainly can’t keep cleaning the house all day every day, it’s beginning to wear me down.  I must do something else.  I miss my colleagues at school so much and the children of course.  I’ll have a long think about it.  I do need something else in my life apart from Mother.  She sleeps so much and when she’s awake she’s only half-aware of what she’s saying.  She remembers so little these days.  I need other company sometimes.  I do wonder occasionally whether she’d be better of in a home for the elderly, but she’d probably hate it.  I don’t think I would feel happy if I sent her away.


“You must do what you think is right,” replied her husband, but try to feel good about it and don’t resent her presence.  I’m sure you’ll think of something else to do in between looking after mother.


Francoise smiled, “I should be able to.  After all it’s an ideal opportunity to work by myself, undisturbed for most of the time.”


That night as Francoise lay drifting towards sleep, a picture came into her mind.  She would set up her paints in a corner of the living room.  She would paint peoples’ portraits.  It was a dream she had had as a young woman, but because she needed to earn a good living she had chosen teaching instead.  Now, she realised, she could choose again.


She would not charge much to begin with.  She knew her colleagues from school would love to have portraits of themselves or their children.  Yes! That is what she would do.  She became quite excited.  She had to wake Jan to tell him about her plans.

He knew they could live on his earnings, if somewhat frugally. 


Jan greeted her idea with enthusiasm. 


The next day Francoise went up into the loft and brought down some old canvasses.  They just needed to be re-primed with paint, and she would be ready to go.  She thought the first picture she would paint would be of her mother, asleep.  She made a very still sitter.


Francoise was thrilled with the result.  She had embued her mother’s face with a sense of great peacefulness.  She felt a strong sense of compassion and fellow feeling for her mother.  She was glad she would not be sending her away.

For herself she had found peace of mind by doing what she felt was right and not resenting it.  She had found a way of using her time in an enjoyable and creative way, a way that could eventually bring some extra income to the family.


The picture of her mother won an award at the town’s annual exhibition of portrait paintings;  it was so unusual and so full of sensitive appreciation of the subject.


Francoise never regretted the time when she cared for her mother.  Her children now with offspring of their own said that it had changed her life for the better in so many ways.  Instead of being the anxious teacher, always busy, she now painted most days, and attended lectures and exhibitions and her work was much appreciated by the many folk whose portraits she painted.




Honour and obey your father and mother, from North American Indian tradition,for age 10 – adult

Honour your Father and Mother

Story for Law 5: Honour and obey your father and mother ( given to me in meditation by  Calling Horse)

This law was necessary to keep the social fabric of the tribe intact.If people showed respect for their parents, it would make for a peaceful non-argumentative society.One’s place in the pecking order was known, and within in the family at least, one did not have to fight for it.When the old folks became unable to look after themselves (not a very frequent occurrence in my time) their offspring wouId care for them. This made it imperative for people to have a partner and a family as an insurance for care in old age.

In my tribe families were headed by the father, or the grandfather. If the grandfather was alive then it would be his say which would be final on any major decision. However there were many, many decisions to be made and frequently the grandfather would hand over his authority for most, if not all decisions to his son, or his son ‘in law’.

There was once a big meeting about to be held. This was a meeting with a tribe which we frequently encountered and with which we were very friendly. Many of our families had intermarried and so in a sense the tribe had become quite mixed. However, each tribe did maintain its different customs as in each there was definitely a preponderance of the original tribe. On this occasion the meeting was concerning the matter of buffalo. It had been noticed that the herds seemed to be moving away from the area and the chiefs wanted to discuss the reasons why. They were very concerned about this since the buffalos were our main source of meat. A pow wow was held. It was decided that we should host the meeting and our tribe had therefore to prepare food and also make available bedding and bed space for the night. We set up a number of extra teepees for the visitors. We had to find more quarry than usual on our hunting expedition. This was rather a difficult task, because there was never any telling how much would be caught and we would always have fat days and lean days. However, this had to be a fat day; we had to make it so. I remember my father saying we should look in the direction of the hills for a good kill. I favoured another source of quarry. However father’s word was the law, so I obeyed him and went off with a group of 4 young braves to see what we could find. We were indeed fortunate. We caught two deer, large ones. Another group of hunters came back with some small animals, so we were well provided for. I asked my father if he had seen the animals in the area.

“No,” was his reply, “But I did ask the Great Spirit to show me where to send you hunting and he showed me that hill in my dream last night.”

Father asked the Great Spirit to show him good hunting grounds

Father asked the Great Spirit to show him good hunting grounds

Father had been right again. He was not always right, but it was always our custom to accept what our parents told us, so we did. Another little incident occurred at the time of the pow wow when my father was quite definitely not right. We had all gathered around to make the initial greeting to the visitors. My father had asked all of his family to be there, even my little sister who was not known for her quiet nature. She was a very talkative little girl and rather disobedient, but she was so pretty that everyone always indulged her. So there she was sitting at my mother’s feet, chattering away, when the chief was trying to have a polite and serious conversation for all to hear with the chief from the visiting tribe. My sister was describing the visiting chief to my mother in a very loud voice.

‘Mother.” she said, “Chief Running Deer looks very funny. He doesn’t have many feathers in his head dress. I don’t think he can be as important as our chief!”
My father winced and turned round to mother.

“You were right,” he whispered, take her away, she’ll get us into trouble.” He winked. Mother nodded and smiled and, holding my sister’s hand she led her away out of earshot.Father relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the meeting. Afterwards he asked us why no-one had reminded him of why he should not have had my little sister at the pow wow. “You’re the boss,” said my elder brother, “You always know best so we did what you asked, although we thought it was not such a good idea ourselves.”

”It is true,” said Father “that although I am not infallible, I am usually right, but please do not hesitate to correct me if you are sure that I am wrong!”

“Who can ever be sure about Yellow Fire, our sister? She is always taking us by surprise.” replied my brother, as Yellow Fire
pummelled him with her fists.

‘Well, I’m not going to marry anyone in their tribe.” said my sister, “I like chiefs with lots and lots of feathers and paint like they have in our tribe.”That was her last word on the subject.


Looking after Mum (story:family members taking responsibility for helping in the home)

Looking after Mum

Mary lay on her bed. It was all she could do to lift her head from the pillow to take a sip of water. She felt detached from her body which had let her down so badly. Her normally fit strong frame was now prone, limp, like a rag, all vitality and spark gone, yet her mind was clear and bright. She lay thinking about her life and what could have caused this terrible situation.

She had gone from being an extremely busy teacher with a family of two teenage girls and a husband to look after, to a helpless, lifeless body incapable of doing anything at all. This had happened so suddenly that her family were in a state of shock. The doctors said it might have been a virus. They had taken blood and performed numerous tests. Nothing had been found. Mary lay inert. She could not have lifted her arm up to reach the glass of water on the bedside table. It was worse than yesterday but in a strange way her mind was enjoying the rest. Suddenly other people were having to do the thinking and the doing. At first they had resisted it.Mum’ had been doing everything for them. They watched a bit of TV and played on their computers. Mary’s husband expected his tea on the table when he came home. He was tired after a long day at the office and had no desire to cook or clean. Neither did the girls.

Now it was different. They were looking after their mum. They had no choice. Reality had suddenly set in. They began to realise exactly how much their mum had been doing for them. The house started to become dirty. Washing piled up. Dirty dishes filled the sink and the dish washer. No-one could find anything. Where did she keep the Hoover?

Food shopping was a nightmare. How much should they buy? What did they need? What would it cost? Gradually the girls and their father worked out a routine. It took them a month to fully understand what Mary had been doing for them over the past years. Meanwhile Mary drifted in and out of consciousness, unable to answer any of their questions. Martin her husband learnt how to use the cooker and the washing machine. He ruined a few garments, but not too many. He burnt a few meals. He began to wonder how Mary had managed to do everything that she had done for all those years, and she had worked full time too. Mary was a pleaser, he knew that. She was always anxious to keep others happy to the extent that she did not like to ask for help; she could not cope with the grumbling. That suited Martin and the girls. They were not pleasers, they were users, but they did not like to admit it.

The three of them sat by Mary’s bedside one evening holding her limp hands. Martin decided to tell them all what he had been thinking even if Mary could not hear or understand.

“I’m sorry, Mary,” he said. “I think we’ve worn you out. If you ever get better we’ll never go back to how it was, I promise. We will all do our share of the work.”

Tears were running down Martins face. He had at last realised how selfish they had all been.

That night Mary’s energy returned. She quietly got up and dressed herself. She took her keys and drove away.

Mary returned a fortnight later, rested and refreshed. She never had to wash another pan again. It had taken her near death experience to change to change the behaviour of her family and also her own behaviour. She had done enough pleasing. She realised that having a perfect home was not as important as looking after her own health. Enough was enough.


  1. Does this remind you of anything in your life?
  2. Why do you think the family changed after Mary went away?
  3. In your family how is the work shared out?
  4. Do you look after your own things and keep your room clean and tidy?
  5. Who puts your clothes for washing and who puts the clean clothes away?
  6. Who cooks the meals?
  7. What can you cook?
  8. How could you learn to cook?
  9. What more could you do to help out?