Making the right choice
It can be hard to make the right choice. Our family was at the bakery one recent morning. Everyone got to choose one item.
“We can choose anything we want?” asked the boy.
“Anything,” I replied.
“I can have one of those?” he said, pointing to a sheet cake that had a sign indicating you could have the bakery decorate it any way you wanted.
“Anything within reason,” I said.
They may pretend that they do no know what “within reason” means, but they do understand that a sheet cake is not “within reason” for a morning trip to the bakery.
“Just remember," I said, “you may not eat anything with powdered sugar in the car.”
When I was a few years younger than the boy, my family went to a theme park. In the gift shop, my parents told us we could have one thing, within reason. My sister chose a stuffed tiger. I chose an alarm clock with a character from the theme park on the face. I was proud of my practicality.
“Are you sure you won't want something you can hold on the airplane?” asked my mother.
“I want the alarm clock,” I insisted.
Thirty minutes into the flight home, I looked at my sister holding her stuffed tiger. “Can I hold him for a few minutes?” I inquired.
“No, you chose the clock,” she replied.
“But I don’t have anything to hold,” I said, turning to my mother. “Can I hold my clock?”
“It’s in the suitcase,” she said. “We can’t get to it.”
I started to cry. My mom wished she had made me choose a stuffed animal. Everyone on the plane wished she had made me choose a stuffed animal.
A few years later we went to another theme park. I bought two stuffed animals, and no alarm clocks. I had something to hold on the plane trip home.
In the bakery, the girl chose a glazed pastry. The boy pointed to a jelly-filled, powdered sugar-coated pastry. “You won't be able to eat that in the car,” I said.
“That’s okay,” he replied, “I can wait until we get home.”
I thought back to the theme park and the alarm clock. I thought about telling him, “Don’t get the powdered sugar pastry. It will turn out badly. You will have to watch your sister eat her glazed pastry on the way home, and you will have to wait.”
I kept my mouth shut. A 20-minute ride home would not be an unbearable ride for him. It would help him learn the lesson I had learned on the plane ride home from the theme park. He ordered the powdered sugar pastry.
A few minutes into the ride home I heard the boy ask the question I had been waiting for. “Can I have a bite of yours?” he asked his sister.
“No,” she said, “you have your own.”
“You’ll just have to wait,” I said, feeling like I was teaching him an important lesson.
“Wait?” he asked. “I ate mine already. You said I couldn’t eat it in the car.”
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.