I was in Morocco recently and became captivated by a woodcarver working in a cobblestone alley in the old Marrakech marketplace. Hamid was carving intricate utensils, walking sticks, and art objects using a foot-powered lathe. Turning the wood with his foot, he applied varying sized chisels against the spinning wood to create these beautiful objects. I was staring at the wizardry of his hands as he carved a small amulet on which he wrote my name in Arabic, and then gifted me with it.

We spoke mostly with our hands; Hamid brought me an ingeniously carved box he called his “mystery box” because you had to figure out how to open it.  I worked on it for 5 minutes, gave up and handed it back to him for instructions. Hamid showed me how the parts moved to reveal first the key and then the lock. I watched intently, but it took me a while to finally get it right.

I told Hamid this box reminded me of a children’s story I’d written years ago about a magic box that contained the secret of life.  I wanted it and we indulged in the customary bargaining, until we both felt happy and the deal was sealed. I put the amulet inside the box.

The day I bought the mystery box was also the day of my grandsons 18th birthday, and I thought it would be a perfect gift for him, The weekend after returning I gave it to him on the day of our annual Passover/Easter/Spring equinox Sweat Lodge ceremony I told him the whole story of Hamid the woodcarver, and then gave him the mystery box. He worked on it and didn’t give up until he had discovered all the secret compartments and unlocked the box.

In the Sweat Lodge I told him this box would remind him of this day he legally became an adult. From now on he was responsible for making his own decisions and dealing with their consequences. I was confident he’d make good choices and if he sometimes didn’t that he’d learn from his poor choices and not repeat them. I said, “You’re opening the box of your new life. Your family has prepared you to make good decisions and walk a good path in life, now it’s up to you. Inside the box is my amulet, a reminder that wherever you are, I am also with you, in joy and blessing”.

As parents we must provide our children with a nurturing soil that give them solid roots in life, and later allow them to spread their wings and fly.

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