We never really know how significant a simple act of kindness will be. Sometimes they go unnoticed and other times they are life changing. It’s not the act of kindness nor the extravagance of the gift or the action that matters so much, what matters most is our passion and love for the recipient. In this episode we talk about a simple applesauce cake and lessons learned through the giving of a gift.
Lessons from an Applesauce Cake: How to Change Lives Through Giving
Christmas of 1952 my mom and dad and sister were living in an apartment over the storefronts of the Main Street of my hometown. I’m not sure what the apartments were like in 1952, but in 1974 when I delivered newspapers to those same apartments, they were ratty. They were perhaps better 20 years previous, I’m sure, but probably not by much.
Stories have a way of becoming romanticized over time, and I’m sure this story is no different, but I am sure for my mom and dad money was tight and their circumstances were not the best.
It was during that Christmas season, when my sister was a little girl, that a lady who also lived in the building brought three gifts to my parent’s little apartment: a nut bowl, a small hand sown night-gown for my sister, and an applesauce cake. The lady also gave my mom the recipe for the applesauce cake.
As far as I know, without fail, for 65 years, Christmas for our family has always included an applesauce cake made from that recipe.
When I was a boy I didn’t care much for the cake, but I always had one piece because it seemed to be an important part of our family tradition. During the days of our celebration of Christmas, I have applesauce cake and coffee every morning for breakfast. My girls have grown up with the presence of the applesauce cake during the holidays. They do not yet care for the cake, but I think they always have a piece, and they are very much aware of its presence. My sister’s family always has applesauce cake as well.
Here are some random thoughts and reflections concerning the applesauce cake.
We never really know how an act of kindness will impact its recipients.
The giver of these three gifts had no idea that her kindness would become a part of our family lore. She had no idea that 65 years later her kindness would still be recounted and the story would still be told. We have warm feelings toward this lady, of whom I do not know her name, though I did hear her named many times throughout my life.
I think of the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume. Onlookers here aghast at her extravagant actions, but Jesus rebuked the criticism. Jesus said that the story of this woman’s extravagant demonstration of love would be told and retold as example of extravagant love.
We never set out that an act of kindness or an expression of love will become a part of someone’s lore, and when we do it never works. Ours is to be obedient to the promptings of kindness we feel. Desiring nothing in return, not ever really thinking a out our actions being significant in any way, but we simply follow through with something on our hearts.
We tend to overestimate the importance of things important to us and underestimate things that truly affect those we serve.
We never really know how significant a simple act of kindness will be. Sometimes they go unnoticed and other times they are life changing.
[shareable]We never really know how significant a simple act of kindness will be. Sometimes they go unnoticed and other times they are life changing.[/shareable]
Gifts given with a passion toward the recipient impact the most.
I’m told the applesauce cake is difficult to master. I remember witnessing the chagrin of many fails. Every Christmas season, one of the wild cards was whether or not the applesauce cake turned out. Some years it was burnt a little, some years it was dry, come years it fell apart, some years the first attempt went directly in the garbage can.
When Donna and I got married she picked up on the importance of the applesauce cake. Her first attempt was not bad, but certainly not perfect. One year she threw out the first attempt and started over. This year, our 4th Christmas together, she got the applesauce cake absolutely perfect.
After interviewing my sister several times, thinking, strategizing, and trying different things, she got it perfect on the first attempt this year. Not only does it taste perfect, with a perfect consistency, but it looks perfect. Applesauce cakes almost NEVER look perfect. I’ve seen them pieced back together, shaved down, and rarely does one just look smooth and perfect. Donna got it perfect this year.
It occurred to me… Donna worked really hard to make the perfect applesauce cake, not because she had a passion for the cake, or a passion for the story, not because it was an expectation, not because we’ve always had one before and it is something on her list. It occurred to me… Donna did not have a passion for the cake, she had a passion for me. Because she was doing it for me, she wanted it perfect. Not for the sake of perfection, but as an act of love toward me.
It’s not the act of kindness that matters. It’s not the extravagance of the gift or the action that matters so much. What matters most is our passion and love for the recipient.
[shareable]It’s not the act of kindness that matters. It’s not the extravagance of the gift or the action that matters so much. What matters most is our passion and love for the recipient.[/shareable]
In the story of the woman anointing Jesus with the expensive perfume, the perfume was not the point, the point was the extravagant love the woman had toward Jesus.
Systems, structures, strategies, plans, all of that, are ineffective unless they are driven by a core passion for the recipient. What is the transformation we want to see? What is the Love we want to express, and why do we want to express it?
When we have a passion for the person, our actions have the potential to be life changing.
Calibration Tools… Calibrating Our Lives and lifting those we love and lead.
- Make it a goal for the next week (or specified time frame) to intentionally show an act of kindness daily. Yeah, paying for the person behind you in the drive through line is cool, but how about a face to face act of kindness to someone you have some relationship with or someone in your life on a regular basis? Sometimes we are afraid to serve those nearest us because they will wonder what we are up to, or think we are out of character, that’s okay, get in the habit of serving people.
- Do not try to be significant in the act of service (at least not always). Sometimes the very simplest things we do to serve others or express concern are life changing. Sometimes you will not even remember the service or the kindness, because it was so insignificant to you, but it made a difference. Let your serving become a normal and routine part of your life! And the best way to do that is to be daily intentional about it for a specified period of time. It might catch on.
- Random is fine, but serve others out of a passion and compassion for them.
- Your systems, structures, and plans for advancement and growth are fine, but our actions should be transformational, they should be about touching people. If all of your actions are about moving systems forward, you are an executive. If your actions are about moving people forward transformationally, you are an under-shepherd.
A lady with a hand stitched gown, a cheap nut bowl, and an applesauce cake in 1952… I cannot say she changed our lives, but she showed kindness to a young family at a moment when they felt a great need. We look for big things to do to make a difference, but really, it is small things done consistently over the course of a lifetime that makes a difference.
Practice noticing. Practice simply seeing the people in your life. Notice how you can help. Notice how you can be a blessing. It might not make a difference… but it might.