I want to tell you a story about cornbread. I know what you are all thinking, “not another story about cornbread?!” The other day I receive a text from my wife asking if we were out of eggs. I knew this was somewhat of a rhetorical question as she was at home in front of the refrigerator and I was not. I turned to my oldest son, who typically uses the last of something without letting anyone know, and asked if we were out of eggs. He answered in the affirmative. I then let my wife know an answer to the question that she already knew. She had begun to prepare cornbread and had poured the mixture into the bowl only to find out that there were no eggs. She then simply leaves the bowl and goes about a quest for something else for dinner. I know this story is not very exciting, but I swear there is a point.
The next day I went to the grocery store and while there I picked up some eggs thinking that I would go ahead and fix the cornbread to go alongside the chili I was preparing for dinner. What a fantastic way not to waste 62 cents. The plan was brilliant, and I was very proud of myself for thinking of it. I arrive home and put away the groceries and set out to get the cornbread into the oven. I reach for the milk and, you guessed it, there was no milk. Insert expletive here as I realize, I too, had been foiled by lack of one of the four ingredients I needed to make this cornbread. What to do? Oh, I’m making this cornbread now! I got back into the van and drove back to the store.
I need to back up a bit. When I was at the grocery store I noticed an older lady in a motorized wheelchair passing by my car with her groceries hung all around and walking with a child who may have been around eleven or twelve. I said hello and smiled, and they went on past. I assumed they were going to their vehicle. As I was returning to the grocery I passed the lady and young girl walking down the road between the grocery and our home. They had walked to the grocery store and in the time it took me to drive home, unpack the groceries, start the cornbread, realize I was missing an ingredient, get completely bent out of shape at all the bad luck that I had, drive back to the store, buy the milk, and as it turns out return home from the store, they still had not made it back to their home. Reality check number one.
When driving to get the milk I was not going to go back on the main road to the grocery store. Oh no, I had been too inconvenienced by all this nonsense and I was going to just go to the corner drugstore by our house and get the milk. It is maybe a 30 second difference in time but that is not the point. I have been inconvenienced! When I walk into the drugstore that I had no business even going to for milk I was immediately greeted by an overly friendly hello! Oh great, someone who is having a much better day than I wants to spew their happiness all over me. My initial reaction was one of contempt and wishing that there was another register open so I could go through their line. Maybe someone not so chipper. In the time it took me to get to the milk cooler and back to the checkout his enthusiasm and happiness became infectious. I heard him interact with other customers and his attitude really did start to change my mood. I asked him how he could keep up such a positive outlook on life and he began to tell me a short story about his life and previous jobs and the trauma that came with one of them. He said, “This, I could do all day long!” And I was complaining about ingredients for cornbread. Reality check number two. (There are actually so many takeaways form this interaction such as positive attitude and behavior having effect on others but we are talking about cornbread here and I am a bit longwinded as it is.)
I know that you are all wondering if this cornbread was baked. I can tell that you are at the edge of your seats. We will get to that. As I drove the few minutes back to the house after this interaction I once again pass the lady and child walking with their groceries and I lose it. I mean I broke down into tears and felt like one of the most horrible people on the face of the earth. I was complaining so much about this cornbread and my circumstances that I was having trouble seeing that there were others that had it worse. I’m not sure if you believe in God or a supreme being of some sort. Maybe just a force that guides us through this world. I am convinced that there was a force out there that was going to make sure I picked up on these lessons along the way. I pulled myself together and went back inside to prepare dinner and, yes, the cornbread. Cornbread was baked and there were no further hiccups with this 62 cent box of cornbread. I know, a little anticlimactic huh?
Sometimes we get so frustrated about the issues that we are facing in life that we don’t stop to think that others may have it way worse. We were lacking ingredients to make cornbread. Big deal, at least we had the ability to quickly run to the store to grab what we needed and problem solved. Some would have had to take a few hours out of their day to make that happen. Some would not have had the money to go buy the milk. A lot of times I hear extremely wealthy people get upset about someone taking an extra $10,000 in taxes from their millions of dollars and they act like it is the end of the world. They blame lower income people for their lot in life and refuse to appreciate what they have and understand that there may be people who would laugh at their “problem” as I’m sure people would laugh at my cornbread issue. Perspective may be the key here. No problem being upset about an issue that faces us but maybe have a little bit of perspective.
The situation that the gentleman at the drug store explained to me is one that no one should have to experience and live with the rest of their lives. I’m not sure how he would not be cynical and upset and bitter for the rest of his life. He had made an effort to move on and see the blessings that he now has. He remembers his struggles to help him appreciate what he has, but does not focus and dwell on them to the point that they negatively affect his life.
The last lesson I learned was how much effort, emotion, time, and focus can be wasted on something as simple as cornbread. Think about everything that was a result of preparing this cornbread. The amount of frustration, texts, driving, cursing, and epiphanies that came from overcoming the obstacles that lead to the preparation of the cornbread. I feel that it is a metaphor for life. This cornbread represented what we all go through in life. We try so hard to accomplish a goal and it seems obstacles are always in our way. We become hyper focused at accomplishing the goal at all costs. We persevere and we do what is necessary and finally we hit the summit and the goal is accomplished. So, keep fighting, keep learning lessons along the way. Keep baking that cornbread because the lessons learned through the cornbread will be there the next time there is something much more important.
Another lesson was learned days later when only one piece of this cornbread was enjoyed by the family. As I scraped most of the cornbread out of the pan and into the trash I chuckled to myself and wondered if it was even worth all of the effort. The answer was yes! That cornbread taught me so much.