Archive | January, 2015

A Wonderful Life for Someone else may be lacking one ingredient: You

26 Jan

It's a Wonderful Life

The movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” centers around the life of George Bailey, a man with big dreams who ends up living his life humbly and honorably in the small town where he grew up.  At one point in the film, George contemplates suicide because he is in a desperate financial situation and he has been led to believe that he is worth more dead than alive (via his insurance policy). Fortunately, George is helped to see the true value of his life (the good he’s done, the friends he’s made, the family he is a part of) byway of Clarence, an angel who wants to earn his wings.  In the final scene we witness George Bailey surrounded by his family, friends, and neighbors. They have all come because they heard that he was in trouble and they wanted to help. As George is letting this all sink in, his brother, Harry, raises a glass to toast him saying, “To my big brother, George, the richest man in town.”

The first time I saw that film, I was barely out of my teens.  My Mom had suggested I watch it as it was the late night movie that day and I must have looked a bit sad coming home from a date.  The movie grabbed my from the start and I watched transfixed til the end and hoped that my sobs were not loud enough to wake the rest of the family.  Clearly, the film had made an impact.

Why do I tell this story?  I suppose it is because I am often reminded that it is the little things that we do that really matter the most… the friendships we make, the kindness we offer, the joy that comes from shared experiences… even when things don’t go as planned.  In fact, often those times are the most memorable.

For the past week, Emile and I have been in Mexico and a few days ago we were able to meet up with old friends.  They drove five hours to spend time with us (okay, they were also going to the beach).  Neither of us is fluent in the other’s language… my Spanish is fair at best) but we find ways to communicate.  We spent two days together discovering new beaches: Boca de Iguanas (the sign near the bay there says “No Swimming: Crocodiles”), Tenicatita (no amenities and a military presence made this beach unappealing), before settling at Melaque for swimming, working a jigsaw puzzle, and sipping Modelos.

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Karen and Rosalba;  David, Miriam, Leslie, Rosalba with me and Emile

The day our friends arrived, I made a coconut cream pie to share with them and one of our favorite restaurateurs. Unfortunately, that taco stand was closed that day and so we found another taqueria and made new friends there.  I gave the pie to our waiter and asked him to please keep it cold until we’d eaten.  After our dinner, I went to retrieve it and when he opened th fridge we saw the pie tilted on its side oozing out of the pie tin.  The worried look on his face was instantly removed when I laughed and told him that it was okay… it was after all, just a pie!  As it was a few days before David’s birthday, we sang to him and each enjoyed a bit of mushy pie.  Life is good!

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After David and his family left, we returned to our usual routine… walking the beach… and for me, that also means searching for shells.  As we were standing by a fisherman, I found a particularly strange one and showed it to him explaining that I loved the surprises that come with each wave.  He looked at the shell and said what I had was a “regala de la mar” using the same words as the title of Anne Morrow Lindbergh‘s book, Gift from the Sea.  My thoughts exactly!

Later in the day, we sat under an umbrella and the waves kept bringing up bits of plants.  The tiny older woman who had rented us a table looked so small compared to the task she faced at cleaning the beach (read: impossible), and so for a little while I raked for her. You can imagine the looks I received from locals and tourists alike… but I just needed to do something!  Afterwards, the old woman and I laughed at the never-ending process and shared a moment of understanding. Pretty amazing how easy it is to do that if you give it a shot.

That evening we found our way to our first taqueria bearing a Chocolate Cream Pie.  I’d been told the day before by Mario, our young waiter, that the reason they were closed was so that the whole family could celebrate his 13th birthday. That must have made him feel pretty special!  And I wanted to honor him as well… and what else would I give him but a pie?

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As I close, I want to leave you with this thought: we really never know what another person is going through… and our words and actions may be the one thing that makes or breaks their day. I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to think of a situation in your world needing help.  Maybe you can’t fix it… but it is likely can make a small difference. We simply can’t rely on angels like Clarence to do it for us… sometimes, it is up to us.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Dalai Lama

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Is it Give to Get…. or Get to Give?

17 Jan

A few days ago, a man wrote to me to say that he was putting together a book of tales about unselfish acts and he wanted to include my “pie project” in the book.  I was honored to be thought of in that light… but what I wanted to say to him was this: I don’t really think that I qualify!

Before I explain, let me share a few stories with you.

Last summer I was privileged to cater a wedding for a wonderful couple.  The reception hall was bustling with activity and with minutes to go before the guests arrived, I took a moment to put the finishing touches on the buffet.  Without warning, a woman I’d never met approached me and quietly asked if she could tell me something.  “Oh dear!” I thought. “What could possibly be wrong?” and then I turned to her and said, “Sure” hoping that it was a problem I could fix quickly.

The woman then told me that I had brought her a pie two years before.  When she explained where she worked, her story came back to me.  Her friend had recommended her to me because she was a hard worker, extremely considerate to guests, and at the time, she was pretty far along in her pregnancy.  I’d tried to bring the pie to her directly, but Ava was busy working somewhere in the hotel and could not be located.  That night I left the pie without ever meeting her.

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One of my favorite combinations – love and quiches!

As Ava told me how much my pie had meant to her, I was overwhelmed with emotion (no surprise, eh?).  To be truthful, I still had a full night’s work ahead of me, and was already tired, but I was also deeply touched that my simple gift had had such an impact.

Fast forward to a few days ago.  An email arrived with sad news: a friend of my husband’s had lost his wife to cancer. Immediately, we shared our condolences and asked if there was anything we could do.  A message came back announcing when the service was to be held.  Knowing that we would not be able to attend, I explained that I would like to bring a pie… to show our concern and to give Ron something to share with the family and friends that would soon be with him.

My plan had been to bring the pie to Ron’s office and leave it for him, but when I arrived, I found him busy at his desk. I knocked gently on his door and he looked up at me.  I could tell that he was trying to figure out how he knew me and so I introduced myself and gave him the pie. Then Ron said something that surprised me… it was something like this, “I’ve aspired to get one of your pies” and then he asked if he could give me a hug.  Somehow I found my way out of his workplace without crying, but once outside, my tears flowed freely.  I felt so grateful to have acted upon my intuition and given him that pie.

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Kick-Ass Apple Almond Pie

Now let’s go back to the beginning of this post and address the word “unselfish.” Over the last few years, I have been on the receiving end of an abundance of good feelings and heartfelt emotions because of this “pie project” that I would not have earned otherwise. Truly, I would not trade those experiences for anything!  In a way, I think I have been rather “selfish” because I keep making pies because I really love “getting” those good feelings!

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Gluten-free Raisin Nut Cookies – a gift for a friend

We’ll see if my story makes it into the book… but it may not.  It really doesn’t matter.  What’s more important is that I have been able to share so many amazing moments with friends, family, and strangers because of something that comes naturally to me… and I can’t state this enough: If you are able to give of yourself, do so.  You can give no greater gift… and there is no telling the good you may receive!

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“To whom much is given, much will be required.”  Luke 12:48

“There is a magnet in your heart that will attract true friends.  That magnet is unselfishness, thinking of others first; when you learn to live for others, they will live for you.”  Paramahansa Yogananda