Monday, March 21, 2011

Loaves and Pizzas, A Homily

Years ago, two decades or more, my parish priest used a little anecdote in one of his homilies. It was the story of a married couple. The husband always made his sandwiches and then left the ends of the loaf of bread for his wife to use for hers. For years, she felt bitter and annoyed by this habit, hurt that he left her the crummy ends of bread and took the other, better, fresher pieces for himself. One day she finally confronted him on it. His sincere reply: "The ends are my favorite pieces, the best ones, so I leave them so you can enjoy them."

Sweet, right? Even though one can't help wishing the couple had cleared up their slice preferences many years earlier.
I can't remember what larger lesson about that week's readings the anecdote was meant to illustrate or how the story tied into God's love, Biblical insights, etc. All the same, the anecdote has remained with me for twenty-five years or so.
Hubby and I had a similar moment of revelation over the weekend.
We took the kids to a pizza place they call "Choo Choo" for lunch on Saturday. The kids ordered chicken and fries, as you do at awesome Chicago pizza places. Hubby and I easily settled on sharing a family size salad and a medium thin crust pizza. I happily ate several of the perimeter pieces -- you know, the best ones, with the crispy crust handle. I eventually felt guilty for eating so many of these "good" pieces and decided to grab one from the middle. Hubby says, not unkindly, "Aww, you're taking one of my good middle pieces."
"The good middle pieces?"
"Yes, those are my favorite."
"But I only eat the middle pieces because I feel guilty about hogging so many perimeter pieces."
"I only eat the end pieces to get to the middle pieces."
Seems like we could clarified this point a decade ago, but I have to say, it feels so nice to have that definitively settled and so satisfying to know that our thin crust pizza preferences are complementary.
If I were to craft a homily inspired by this incident and the loaf of bread anecdote, here are the noteworthy lessons and reminders:
Different strokes for different folks. My favorite may not be your favorite. Our own tastes and preferences seem so clear and true that it's easy to forget that others don't share them. I'm glad to be reminded of that.
Guilt? What a waste. I make more choices motivated by guilt than I care to admit. I'm not saying don't regret mistakes or don't try to make things better when you're at fault. I am saying that I am stupid for feeling guilty over things like which pieces of pizza I might possibly be enjoying too many of or how I leave the green jelly beans in the bag for the next sucker.
Communicate. Unlike the couple in the sandwich anecdote, the slice preference thing hasn't been eating away at me for years or causing any resentment. However, such little things can become nagging sources of annoyance and ill will for no good reason. Always wise to speak up if something--the way someone squeezes the toothpaste or loads the dishwasher or leaves one single glass on the most inconvenient spot near the kitchen sink--is getting to you.
Love involves sacrifices, large and small, but it does not have to be defined by them. I sometimes fall into patterns of thinking in which in order to be happy, I think I need to "earn" that happiness by giving something up/away or denying myself something I'd like . . . even as small as an end piece of pizza. Some acts of sacrifices and suffering are meaningful. Some are pointless. Wise to pause and consider the difference.
Again, our pizza epiphany is less powerful than the slice of bread story because, thankfully, it involved no hard feelings. I'm pleased though, that our moment of insight brought back that anecdote from years ago and gave me something to chew on (pun intended) that is relevant to my life today.
Any "little things" that have become big things in your relationships? Any moments of clarity achieved? Are you a perimeter person for thin-crust pizza? Do you squeeze the toothpaste from the middle? Do you like the ends of a loaf of bread? Really?! What do you do with green jelly beans? Please share in the comments.

*Note that there were two perimeter pieces left! That's our Little Bit, looking so serious and reflective.


Stacia said...

My husband and I are both fans of the end piece of bread. So we each have one, a compromise we worked out many, many baguettes ago.

Also, I won't touch jelly beans with a 10-foot pole, so I feel good about buying them for him (he loves them) and I feel good that I can totally resist them. Win-win. Wait, that's not quite the same kind of selflessness you were talking about, is it? Well, my thighs appreciate it at least.

Lady Jennie said...

It's funny that you had the exact same revelation as the story you heard (well, different carb). Unfortunately my husband and I like the same things, but I always make sure he gets at least one sots-l'y-laisse, which is the best part of the chicken. I'll do a post about that soon actually. ;-)

Actchy said...

I don't know how else to say it but that. Is not. A thin crust pizza.

CaraBee said...

Ha! My first comment was going to be similar to Actchy because, sister, that ain't no thin crust. My god, what does the thick crust look like?!

I love green jelly beans. My faves, actually. I don't think my husband and I have an end/middle preference but after reading this, I will be sure to take note the next time something like this happens. I know that I make a lot of decisions based on guilt and trying to give someone else the better option. Maybe I'm not actually doing them any favors. Thoughts to ponder.

Sarah D said...

Great Homily.
I do not enjoy green candy of any kind.

E... said...

I loved this post. I definitely keep track of how many good things I should get to "earn" based on what I've done to "deserve" them. Like it is only okay for me to let J. get up with the kids in the morning while I sleep an extra half hour, if I was up with them during the night.
I am a perimeter person all the way. Less cheese to peel off there. So then the question is: why am I eating pizza at all??
I don't mind green jelly beans, so I do pick the red fruit snacks out when I'm doling them out to the kids.

CJR said...

Very true. I am a middle brownie person. They sell that pan that makes all brownies edge brownies. I think they are idiots, but whatever makes them happy is fine. And I think that may be a useful concept in a marriage "you're an idiot, but if it makes you happy that's fine." Some people would say don't use the word "idiot," but that's too many suggestions for one comment.

Teachinfourth said...

There are far too many things to share...


All of the loaf is delicious.
I have never met a brownie that wasn't wonderful.
Pizza should be its own food group.
Black jelly beans should be dropped into the deep end of the ocean.

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

Awwww.. that's a sweet love story!

FYI, you are right. He is wrong. But you are a lucky, lucky girl!

dusty earth mother said...

So so sweet. And I'm with you--when it comes to Chicago pizza, it's all about the perimeter, babe.

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