It was Autumn. Football season. Maybe even Home Coming at our small, Friday Night Lights, athletics driven school district. At any rate, it WAS Sweater weather. The smell of smoke was in the air from someone burning the first fire of the season, and it was PTA Fundraising time.
All day long there had been a kind of excitement to see what the Competing School Campus Contestants would submit, and even more suspense in the discovery of…. WHO WOULD WIN the CHILI COOK-OFF title and money prize for their school building and students.
All day long I had smelled a wonderful, wafting smell of White Chicken Chili down the halls of my wonderful elementary school. Blessed….torture! Sadly, I hadn’t made it down to the lunching lounge room to eat….MUCH LESS to stop to take time to add my ingredient, or to sneak a taste. Instead, I had sent my love and intentions in thought bubbles, from my heart, throughout the day. This I did in attempting to be mindful, not in fully understanding what was in the making.
A few days before I had calously teased about the “White Chili” sounding racist. I just don’t think. I had hoped the joking had not been taken wrong. I didn’t understand about the secret recipe ingredients until much later, after the pot had gone missing from the crockpot line-up in the lounge. Instead I found an abandoned leaflet full page copy of ingredients.
The ingredients: were suggestions which appeared printed largely and boldly on the paper. They were whole, and wholesome. As I read the listed items, I wondered if they were intended to appear in this order, and if this implied Largest to smallest amounts as would appear on a food nutrition label. Label or no label, this list was anchored in the words of Christ.
They were gifts and fruits of the Spirit: the greatest of which is…
Then joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
My thoughts turned inward as they often do. I have a great capacity to love, but little self control. I blunder, harm, and self destruct. How wonderful I thought, and sat down a few minutes to process the good news as if an Easter message.
It had been a frenetic rush and wrap-up of a learning day, from several moments of “busy,” to a yellow toeline sidewalk boundary of children, orange cone completion of curbside car pick-up, and also some undesirable tension due to an unsatisfied parent. This behind me, I had returned to find there was no longer any sign of the delicious smelling, anticipated crockpot chili. The wonderful, hoped for, white chicken chili, had flown the coop like Chicken Run, and Rocky the cannonball rooster! “Brrbawk!”So I resigned to wait for the fundraiser dinner to unfold later that evening.
As teachers do, I turned to work and MORE WORK running copies of student hand-outs, and preparing for the coming week. This combined with intermitant distraction, conversation, and the singular breathing of rubber cement fumes. This a favorite. Just kidding. It was a project thing and the outside door was partially… opnd. Ha! ha!
A few hours later I floated into town on the same glue fumes and memory of a school day filled with wholesome food framed aromas awaiting tonight’s fund raiser. Pulled into the Fair Ground Bowery, set the brake and strode into a pleasant evening of food and conversation meant to raise money for the students we love.
From a distance, I could tell the event was well attended. I was impressed by the display of what had become the collaborated offering. I scanned to see if the food’s creators and entrees were present. No. All I saw was a tide of purple which emmanated smiles and school pride.
“Excuse me, Where’s the Elementary’s Chili?” I smiled, asking my neighbor, a purple shirted young PTA mom, along with a few others. At first, the familiar faces of purple people eater PTA officers along the serving line kept rules, appearances of proper, but… In time, they caved and did divulge (with a wink) the location and source of what I was after: White Chicken Chili.
“I would like a bowl of that one,” I said pointing to the coveted crock that had gone MIA, and which I had NOT seen or sampled earlier in the teachers’ lounge.
“We have to give you this one,” she said as if in defeat. “The cafeteria made this one. (A giant fairly unappealing trough.) The health department won’t allow us to serve these others to the public. They are only for the contest. It’s Rules.”
“Sigh.” I was disappointed. Rules sometimes do this to me. I thought ‘Render unto Caesar what Caesar requires, (maybe… Caesar salad, or even croutons!). At the same time I was vividly remembering the Health Department as a place of pain, requiring one to blow on a small patriotic pinwheel while receiving a DTP booster shot and complimentary diabetic, sugarless lollipop as parting gift. Concluded in this chilly chili moment…. As for me and my house, I choose… the other coveted one which I have been denied!!
I knew what I wanted and what would be best for my soul health. I politely passed on the beef chili, and in persevering, formulated a Plan B, moving foward along a donated line of lovely prepared salads and conical displays of corn bread.
“You can have a sample, and cast your vote,” the vivacious PTA President replied in more of a questioning, appologetic tone and expression.
“In that case, I choose number six, please.” I paused to write my persuasion on a small piece of paper with a golf pencil. Dropped it in the ballot box, then turned again to those serving me.
“So, would you like a sample?” they asked me.
“Yes, please,” I calmly replied….still thinking. And then added, “If I can’t have a bowl……I will be having A LOT OF SAMPLES!!” I grinned like a Cheshire. The PTA laughed. The only thing cornier than me was the little peely cupcake paper cornbreads stacked neatly in pyramids.
Life is good I thought, with or without me getting my way. And so I unwapped the moment and took a bite savoring sweet between the corn grit.
We have to choose to see the good in the moment. More importantly, we must choose wisely our response to what life gives us……choosing to LOVE. There IS GOOD everywhere…..all the time….we must choose to see it and choose to create it- in ALL it’s forms, frames, features, and sample cups. In hindsight and occasional wisdom, we realize the best ingredients in life are not those achieved or even tasted to meet our creature comfort appetites. The things that are best for us in life are SIMPLE, and of core value. They are the invaluable, and most needed to nourish our collective souls.