One loaf of my Never-Been-to-Maine Pumpkin Bread
During Lent I hoped to push myself a bit more in my giving and bake bread for folks who were truly hungry, sad, needy, or with whom I struggled. That’s why I ended up at the Rescue Mission with ten loaves of my brother’s bread, and stopped to offer cornbread to a homeless man who was begging outside of Trader Joe’s… Thankfully, I couldn’t think of too many people that I disliked, but even so, two people came to mind in a flash. My hope was that by giving these people something from my very own hands, something that I labored over, that my heart might be softened and I might find a better love for these folks.
The crossing guard won me over in a heartbeat as she sat there in the rain and waited for the rivers of children to flee school. When I drive by her now, I hold a completely different image of her in my mind and heart than I did only a short month ago.
I wasn’t so sure about Woman Number Two. She has been rude to me and my children over and over again. Once, she even laughed aloud at me, rejoicing in my stupidity. I kept imagining that I would bring her bread and she would throw it in the trash while I watched. And I couldn’t imagine what I might say. I’m bringing you this bread because you’re so mean, and because when thinking of people I need to forgive, you came right to the top of the list!
No. That wouldn’t be right at all. For this giving is more about me and my need to love and forgive than it is about trying to help anyone else change…
The first time I brought bread to Woman Number Two she wasn’t working. I gave the loaf of molasses bread that I’d made for her to some folks peddling pixie sticks instead. But on Holy Thursday, just yesterday, John Ronan and I walked into the store and there she was, pricing little trinkets behind the counter.
She greeted me with a head nod and I slowly said my rehearsed line. My kids love to come in here, and whenever I bake I always make something to share. We live nearby, and I just thought you might like it.
A smile, a big, surprised smile, and her eyebrows went up as I handed her the pumpkin bread. She didn’t say anything for a moment and then… In all my 35 years of this store, you’re the first. I smiled. Really. 35 years, she said. She mumbled something else, but I didn’t catch it. John Ronan had already made his way to the toy aisle and I needed to supervise.
He and I looked at toy rings that squirt, and after several minutes I coaxed him toward the door. By this time the husband had made his way to the front register and as we were just about to leave he said, Are you the one who made us this delicious bread?
I smiled and nodded, and noticed the woman already eating a torn off piece of pumpkin bread. She said, This is delicious! Perfect for lunch!
I smiled again and as we left, I heard her say, …in all these 35 years.
I feel thankful, and convicted. Maybe she’s had her mean days, but I’ve been just as mean. I’ve made snide comments, reveled in others’ failures, given people dirty looks. I know I’ve cut people off driving around town, and cheated, and lied. Maybe I’ve softened, but that’s all due to Christ, and maybe she doesn’t know Him?
Maybe in all these 35 years no one has cared enough to tell her of Him.
My priest once said that if you have difficult people in your life, that it helps to find a good and beautiful image of them and keep that foremost in your mind whenever thinking or dealing with them. He said that that image will not only change you, but it will eventually change them too. That pumpkin bread brought out a grateful smile that I will never forget, and I know that by braving this, my hardest episode of giving, that I’ve been…