Chocolate into schools
Tuesday September 28th 2010, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Today, I was driving past the block that Milk Pail is cornered in and decided to try again: I was about out of bourbon vanilla, and I’ve found (insert big name brand here) to be watered down compared to theirs. You never know when the next big chocolate-torte-baking binge is going to happen; got to be prepared.

And lo and behold. A parking spot right in front.

The place was crowded as always and there was not a shopping cart nor basket in sight. We’re in the middle of a heat wave, it’s a mostly-outdoors market, and the warmth on their strawberries carried an intense freshly-picked berry smell throughout the place.

With a cane in one hand, that meant I ran out of other hands real fast because honey no way was I going home without some of those.

This was getting difficult. Which increased my incentive.  I looked some more and finally found a cart over that-a-way, but as I shopped there was a young man walking around, I’m guessing Middle Eastern, with his arms full like mine had just been and looking like all he wanted was for this to be over with. He looked tired.

So, let’s see, I got my strawberries, I got my vanilla extract, I got a few extras just because, with a cart handy, I could. (Shelf-stable coconut cream for dairy-free tortes.  Amaretto cookies, 200g, two bucks–yummm.) I glanced over at checkout and saw that by then he’d found a cart too; oh good. His face still looked like he was having a long hard day.

Sign that slip, I’m out of here.

But there were two little boys playing around the bushes and cars in front of the store, including around mine, laughing, running, teasing, being normal bouncy little kids with a parent shopping around in there somewhere, one hopes. I was concerned.

I hesitated. I looked. It seemed clear, but I know how kids can dart.  I got in my big blind minivan and–just then that man came out with his bags, and I rolled down the passenger window and explained and asked if he might check for me.

He not only looked and assured me, he stayed there, waving me back, double-checking constantly, looking out for those kids and me too, staying there till I was moving forward and on my way out.

It was such a small thing. And yet. He looked as if some of whatever it was in his day had suddenly been lifted. I was so glad he’d done that; glad for his sake. He’d earned that.

The greatest human need, I am convinced, is to be needed.

I went home and finished Don‘s chocolate torte–finishing off the last of that cream.

And Don, in turn, inspired by Friday night’s bidding war on that other torte, made a donation to Central Asia Institute, founded by Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, to help fund building schools for girls as well as boys in the most remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where most NGOs refuse to risk going. CAI funds the materials and the teachers; the locals do the building (up to code, too) and the teaching, making the schools theirs, not outsiders’.

Mortenson writes that his nine-year-old daughter asked him, after the major earthquake that devastated Afghanistan, what the children who’d survived all that did to play? To cope, they needed to play, what kind of equipment did they have?

He hadn’t ever thought of that.

She told him to start off with jump ropes but that they needed to have playgrounds. And so, through the wisdom of a child, the schools he was building started having playgrounds for the children.

A group of Taliban elders approached one of them after that, saw the seesaw and the slide and the swings, put down their automatic weapons, and played on the equipment! And then said, everything’s cool, carry on.

A small donation. A chocolate torte in thanks.

Another man willing to direct the traffic of one woman’s car so that someone else’s little boys would be safe.

It all comes together, in ways only God knows the extent of, when we look out for each other.

9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Just goes to show that you may never know how some little gesture can change the world. If not a big thing for you, it could be a big thing down the line for someone else. Thank you, Alison, for being the wise and compassionate woman that you are!

Comment by Kathy in San Jose 09.28.10 @ 11:48 pm

Thanks, Alison. Yes, we all feel the need to be needed. I’m sure you’ve enlightened us today.

Comment by Joansie 09.29.10 @ 2:32 am

I want a torte. I want a torte REALLY REALLY bad.


But yesterday? I went to the open house at the new school I cover. They had all the teachers stand up and receive applause. I don’t stand. (You know why. Who knows what I do???) The two teachers on either side of me grabbed my elbows and made me stand too.

It became a better day. I guess I can hold off on that torte for another week of so 🙂

Comment by afton 09.29.10 @ 5:32 am

It really does take a village to raise children. Thanks to you and your “spotter” (as we call them in the fire service)!

Comment by Channon 09.29.10 @ 6:21 am


And that’s the kind of thing that will, at some point, help to heal our world. More of people doing the good things, and carrying that goodness onward.

Comment by Margo Lynn 09.29.10 @ 8:57 am

It can be the little things in life that make us smile, like someone standing behind your vehicle to make sure no kids get run over.

I haven’t had a chance to taste the torte yet. Too early in the morning, but Cliff assures me that it is VERY RICH.

Which leads me to this line from my humor collection, though maybe it isn’t really funny: When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

Comment by Don Meyer 09.29.10 @ 9:18 am

Okay, now that I’ve actually tried it, this loose talk of tortes makes my mouth water. Good thing I’m going to work out tonight!

Comment by RobinH 09.29.10 @ 11:45 am

“The greatest human need, I am convinced, is to be needed.”
After my multi-pronged ‘issues’ came to live with me, that was what healed me most; when I found a way to be needed/useful again.

Comment by Diana Troldahl 09.29.10 @ 12:01 pm

Ah, the Taliban putting down his automatic weapon and playing on the swings and seesaws- that must be the modern day version of the lamb and the lion lying side by side, surely.

Comment by tinebeest 10.01.10 @ 12:04 am

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>