Gift Of A Cookie Means Much More

Every ‘stream' can be a chance to unload a heavy conscience | Jane Esaki photo

Every ‘stream’ can be a chance to unload a heavy conscience | Jane Esaki photo

My hand is already in the cookie jar when I get caught.

Figuratively, that is. The cashier is placing a homemade cookie into a bag, when I look into my pocketbook and find that I am short a buck.

If I am to use my credit card, I have to bump up my purchase. But I already am full, having just dined nearby, and the cookie is not my usual and a flavor I’m reluctant to try. Feels like the perfect recipe for giving up the purchase entirely and walking out.

But something unexpected happens.

While I am looking up at the cafe menu deciding, a complete stranger behind me offers to pay not only for the balance due on my cookie, but also the entire bill!

“Oh, no, thank you,” I say, embarrassed.

But the lady is adamant, and without the slightest reservation, she hands the total amount to the cashier. Most of all, she is wearing the most genuine of smiles that immediately warms up the room on this chilly afternoon.

I gratefully accept her contribution and receive the cookie. Before I walk away, I turn around to thank her again but she is already busy happily chatting with another person beside her.

She instantly reminds me of the story of the two monks and a woman waiting to cross a stream.

The monks — it’s not their station in life to physically assist a woman — hesitate to offer carrying her across. One of them decides to pick her up and they all cross. After the one monk drops off the woman, the other one asks him why he did such a thing. The one who assisted the woman tells him, “I already dropped her off a while ago at the stream but it looks like you are still carrying her.”

In the case of the cookie donor, she thought nothing of doing a deed that came naturally to her, expected nothing in return and happily moved on.

Any critical observer like the cashier, or even me, the receiver, might still be dwelling on the magnanimity or appropriateness of the action.

In a sense, the donor becomes the least burdened, the one who walks away with the pleasure of serving her good conscience.

As receiver, all I can do is to accept her generosity with sincere gratitude and fully enjoy the flavor of this unfamiliar cookie.

And, of course, try to be the unencumbered monk at the next crossing.