On New Year’s Day we were invited to have dinner with some dear friends. We had not been with them in quite some time, and we were excited to share a meal together and relax in each other’s company. When we arrived, a fire was stoked in the fireplace and a warm welcome awaited us. Initially we were greeted with hugs and hellos, and then we went around the house admiring the changes that had transpired since our last visit. Beautiful glossy hardwood floors had been laid, sleek black cabinetry was added, along with the adoption of two energetic and effusive German Shepherd puppies…a daring addition with the new hardwoods I thought.
Throughout the night we regaled each other with tales of childhood Christmas memories, up and coming college plans, and stories of unusual people that we know (including a designer friend whose personal challenge it is to reinvent himself every five years – wardrobe, design scheme, and all!) The night was a tapestry of laughter, tears, music, stories, and a wonderful shared meal, all set against the backdrop of a cherished friendship. There were, however, two things that punctuated the evening.
First, our host closed out the meal by reading a favorite passage from Pat Conroy’s cookbook. His selection was mesmerizing and memorable; somehow intertwining escaped escargot and a serial killer! We laughed out loud. It felt like such an honor to be read to, our host humbly checking his pronunciation from time to time and clearly conveying his delight in the delicious tale. The moment was magical.
As an adult, it is seldom that I am read to, even more a rare honor when it is a close friend willing to read aloud. I felt, in that moment, the same joy and anticipation that I did when my elementary school teacher would read to us after lunch. My heart was totally engaged in the experience, and I was touched by the humble bravery of this vulnerable act of sharing – of reading aloud.
After we retired to enjoy the fire, our hostess served dessert and coffee. She presented to us a heaping slice of the most beautiful homemade strawberry cake you have ever seen. Made with pureed strawberries and garnished with fresh fruit, this moist wonder was beyond belief. Now, my friend is a good cook, but she would be the first to admit that she has had no formal training or gourmet coaching. Yet this cake exceeded, in goodness, any other strawberry cake I have ever had. Why, because you could taste the time and love that went into it. It was remarkable!
We closed the evening by exchanging overdue Christmas gifts and hugs. On the drive home I pondered our time together. I thought about the gifts we had shared and the kindness of our friends. While the gifts were nice and much appreciated, nothing compared to the goodness received from a cake made with love and a story read aloud. I felt my heart swell in my chest as I thought of these gifts and their givers. I remembered and deeply noted, on this first day of the year, the importance of goodness and its power to open the human heart.
“Goodness like a gentle rain, coaxes the most reluctant bud to bloom.”
A “Good” Idea:
Next time you entertain, find a poem or short story to read to your guests. It will make the night so much more memorable. It takes a little courage to read aloud, but goodness is your reward. Share from your heart and people will not forget it.
We highly recommend The Pat Conroy Cookbook. It is a delightful mix of outrageous and heartwarming stories along with fabulous recipes. The story that was read to us was “Nathalie Dupree.” Unforgettable! (Note: this story is best when read with your thickest southern accent and lots of attitude, Scarlett O’Hara style)