All You Can Eat

What a shame!  Would you look at all we’ve got left?

My daughter had just finished slathering the whipped cream onto the tres leches cake which was for dessert.

A glance into the glass container she held showed that indeed there was almost half as much whipped cream remaining as she had spread on top of the decadent cake, already saturated with heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk.  She couldn’t have put any more atop the cake without even my sugar-craving brain thinking it was overkill.

It was Sunday afternoon, the time when we get the family together for a time of sacred learning.  Okay, so we eat a little too, but we teach each other and we glean information from the freshly plowed fields of a full week.

It is still one of the most blessed times in each week—at least to this old man’s mind anyway.

We learn in the noisiest study hall you’ve ever set foot in, the walls ringing with shouts and laughter, music and conversation.  Today, the stereo in the next room was pouring forth classical music–stuffy by most standards, but heavenly by others  (the ones that count).

On any given Sunday, the conversation at the table ranges from mundane discussion of the week past, to instructions for operating a smart phone.  We tell jokes, funny or otherwise (the preponderance of them falling into the latter category) and we trade stories of our experiences which not only entertain, but instruct.

Common subjects, such as how to communicate with our spouse, or the secrets to living in accord with our fellow man, are the simple fare for our souls, alongside astounding food for our palates.

On this Sunday, however, the learning began long before we sat down to the table.  Come to think of it, that is true on many days.

The children are beginning to help in the kitchen, cramming that small space in eager anticipation of helping Grandma finish the salad, or even to make the coffee with Grandpa.  It’s a wonder we don’t end up in the emergency room every other week, but somehow we usually manage to escape relatively unscathed.

What’s that?

Oh. You want me to talk about what we learned.  Well, as I said, there was too much whipping cream.

I just showed the kids how to run it down the garbage disposal.

Oh, yeah.  I guess that’s not really likely, is it?

What I actually did was to invite the kids to share in the bounty of too-much-cream.

There was one rule.

Each child only got one spoonful.

Well, what else was I to do?  There were adults who might want a taste, and not many grownups I know want to finish a communal bowl of gooey stuff after children have stuck spoons, which have just made the journey to and from their mouths, into it again and again.

One spoonful.

I opened the silverware drawer, which was directly under the bowl containing the delectable treat, and told them each to take a spoon.  Reiterating that they could only have one spoonful (No double dipping, you hear?), I stood aside and awaited their response.

Not one of them complained about the one spoonful rule, but they each reached into the drawer, one at a time, and took out a spoon.

I chuckled as I watched the next to the oldest select his.  The Lovely Lady laughed outright when she saw it.  Each child dipped his or her spoon into the bowl and came up with a heaping pile of pale sugary enjoyment.

One of them enjoyed his longer than any of the others.

Three of the children licked their spoons with smiles on their faces, but the next to the oldest still had cream on his as they placed theirs on the counter top and went off to do other things.

Was he just a slow eater?  Maybe he just licked it a little at a time.

No.  This young man looked into the drawer that his grandfather had opened while telling him to take a spoon and get just one spoonful, and he had realized that there was more than one size of spoon in that drawer.  Grandpa didn’t say what kind of spoon to take, so he selected the largest one in the drawer.

The other three took regular size spoons, while he selected a serving spoon.

His reward was to acquire significantly more of the coveted whipped cream than any of his siblings.

I can hear the naysayers, even as I write the words:

That wasn’t fair at all!  Surely, you didn’t allow this travesty to go on!  You made him get a smaller spoon, didn’t you?  

No.  I didn’t.

For one thing, none of the other children seemed to care.  But secondly, and more importantly, this young man had followed my instructions to the letter.

How was I to punish him for doing what was completely within the parameters I had given him?

The Lovely Lady and I were still chuckling about it as we cleared up and rinsed the dishes after the meal.  There had been other instructive things that day, as there always are, but this event stuck in our heads more than any of them.

Sometimes the instruction doesn’t come through any verbal exchange, but through actions instead.

But. . .

Still, I hear the fairness advocates muttering under their breath.

You know who you are.  

I have been among your number.  I suppose, if it comes to that, I still am.

He got more than they did!  That’s not right!

I consider the sense of fair play, and I hear the words of Martha, the sister of Lazarus, as she makes her case to the Teacher:

It’s not right!  I’m slaving away in here and she sits and listens to you talk!  Make her help me!

The Teacher reminds Martha that she has the ability to make exactly the same choice that Mary did.

Martha determined her path, prioritizing her choices, just as her sister had done.  (Luke 10:38-42)

I’m not sure how much further to wander up this trail.  

Surely, before I get to the end, I’m going to step on some toes—or perhaps, more toes than I already have.  The toes I step on are just as likely to be my own as they are to be yours.

Perhaps, I should simply close with a reminder that the silverware drawer is standing open in front of each of us.  Every single one of us has the opportunity to select the utensil we are to use for the task before us.

If you only want a little bit, pick up the small spoon.  You may be satisfied.

May be.

It’s going to take a little longer, but the enormous spoon will yield much more in the end.

How much more fair can it get?

I still like how that six-year-old boy thinks!  Now, if I can just be as wise.

Go on!  Pick up the big spoon and take a bite.

It’s good, isn’t it?




How sweet your words taste to me;
    they are sweeter than honey.
(Psalm 119:103 ~ NLT)

When making your choice in life, do not forget to live.
(Samuel Johnson ~ English author/lexicographer ~ 1709-1784)

Pay attention now!  I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  So be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves.
(Matthew 10:16 ~ ISV)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.


2 thoughts on “All You Can Eat

  1. Great thoughts, as always!

    One wee correction–isn’t the second to oldest 9 now? Or did this incident happen a couple years ago?

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