Reading for Treasure
The lights dimmed and a room full of people, dressed in their finery, quieted and faced the stage. Names were called. Awards placed in the shaking hands of recipients who didn’t know if they should laugh or cry—and ended up doing a little of both. Applause punctuated their words of thanks. And somewhere in the audience someone wished it would be their turn in the spotlight.
Whether it’s a key to the city from the mayor, a gold watch and bonus check from your boss, an Emmy, Oscar, Rita, Pulitzer, or Nobel Prize from a celebrity host, this scene plays out many times in an average person’s life. Not the receiving the award part—the sitting in the audience part. We all want our 15 minutes (or more) of fame.
But lately I’ve wondered if we don’t have things backwards.
From the seat in the audience the moment can look a lot like having “made it.” But is it?
The situation reminds me of a Zen proverb that goes something like this:
Before enlightenment—chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment—chop wood, carry water.
In other words, “making it” doesn’t really change things.
In 1994, the movie Forrest Gump popularized the “candy box” view of life. “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
With all due respect to Forrest Gump’s mama, I disagree.
Life isn’t a box of chocolates. It’s a piece of cake. We all start life with the same basic recipe: we need food, shelter, love, encouragement. We have people—parents, siblings, friends, teachers, children, spouses, mentors and those we mentor. Over the years we learn, grow, set and achieve goals, fall down and get up, find passions, have adventures and more. These relationships, passions, goals and experiences flavor that cake of life. Some cakes are rich and dense, others light and airy, but all are formed from everyday life.
On top of the cake, most of us have frosting. A positive attitude, sense of generosity and gratitude form the frosting. Creamy and thick or sparsely spread across the top—it’s our choice.
Sometimes a dollop of whipped cream—those special experiences and opportunities you never planned for—layers another element on top of that frosting.
After all of the cake, frosting, and whipped delight, every once in a while, life adds cherries and sprinkles. Remember those awards? The gilded certificates, gold watches and statues to line up on your mantle? They’re sprinkles and cherries. Nothing more than decoration on a life already packed with richness and meaning.
Be honest. If life were all cherries and sprinkles, wouldn’t you miss the cake? I know I would. But if the cake is rich enough, I’m not sure I’ll miss the cherries and sprinkles.
Remember: the world may-or may not—provide the sprinkles. But the cake and frosting are under your control.