Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Birds and the Buns

I went out for breakfast with my son this morning. This is not something all that unusual, for we used to go out regularly, when he was just a few years younger, but it was special today. We hadn't been for a cinnamon bun for some time, and he had been extra wonderful this morning, so I treated him to one. Oh, and these buns are awesome.

Time for a fun aside, just because I can: The best cinnamon bun I have ever had was when I was driving a friend of mine from Chicago to Arizona. I had just come back from China, was severely jet-lagged, and had agreed to make the drive, because she didn't have a license. On the way down, we stayed at this hotel somewhere in Oklahoma, truly in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing at this exit except a brand new multi-storey brand name hotel on one corner, and this falling down weather beaten wooden barn on another corner. That was it.

The next morning, I walked to the lobby and asked the girl behind the desk where the free continental breakfast was. She told me, looking around as if she shouldn't be saying this, to go across the street to Dave's. She said that Dave served a much better breakfast.

I thanked her, puzzled, as I hadn't recalled anything else in sight. I stepped outside, seeing nothing but tumbleweeds and desert all around, aside from the beautifully finished sand coloured hotel behind me and the old gray barn across the street.

Well, as I'm sure you can guess, the falling down barn was Dave's Diner.

As I approached, my trepidation grew. Not only did the place look like a fire and health hazard all rolled into one, but it even had the rusty license plates nailed to the outside walls and the poorly dressed over-stuffed scarecrow sitting on the rocking chair out front.

And then, as I got to the front door, the "scarecrow" turned to me and said, "Hahdee. Y'all just go ahn insahd and tell thuh young ladeez whutchuh want. Thull suhv you up raht." I guessed that was Dave. But I'll tell you, I really did think he was one of those poorly made scarecrows. I nearly jumped out of my skin when he spoke. Now when I see those "bad" scarecrows slouching in a rocking chair, I know that they are actually very life-like.

Anyways, once my eyes adjusted to the darkness inside, I stepped over to the hole in the wall that served as the window into the kitchen. A large woman, who looked kind of like a 60-year old Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz gone bad, and was in desperate need of a shave, pointed to the menu written on the wall.

"I'll have a number 2, eggs over easy, brown toast, bacon and coffee, please."

"Numbah 2, ovah eezy, wheat, bacon, coffee," she said around the cud I think she was chewing, looking me up and down like a farmer trying to decide which pig to slaughter for dinner, "and a cinnamon bun."

"Uhm, thanks," I replied as best I could, "but no cinnamon bun."

She continued in her assessment of my obviously underweight figure and corrected me. "And one cinnamon bun."

Not being one to correct a cook in her kitchen, I went and sat down.

A couple of minutes later, she came over with two large-sized dinner plates. One was covered with eggs, toast, bacon, hashbrowns and something else.

The other plate had a single cinnamon bun. Almost. It didn't quite fit. I mean, the cinnamon bun was hanging over the edge of the platter like... No. I'm not even going to make a comparison.

There must have been over a pound of butter, and a few cups of sugar, not to mention a few more cups of cinnamon, in that bun. And dang if it wasn't the best cinnamon bun I have ever had in my life. I even ordered two to go.

Well, the one I had this morning doesn't come close to that, but it sure was good, and that is not what I wanted to write about at all.

Nope. Today I wanted to talk about ducks and justice.

While Shoghi and I were sitting over breakfast, we began to talk about justice. And yes, he's 5.

I had just recited for him the second Hidden Word, the one that goes, "The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice..."

As he finshed chewing his mouthful of cinnamon bun, he carefully considered his question to me. So I waited.

"Father?" For some reason, he always calls me that when he has a deep question, otherwise it's Papa. "What is justice?"

"Well, justice is..." And how do you continue that sentence to a five-year old? "Well, Baha'u'llah said that justice has two pillars: reward and punishment. You were extremely good today, so you are getting a reward. But do you remember a few days ago when you accidentally swung a stick and almost hit someone? I punished you by taking the stick away. You get something good for doing something good, and you get punished for doing something bad. That is justice."

Shoghi understood the concept, and explained it back in his own words. The lady sitting at the next table also got it, and she was impressed that he had so obviously understood it.

From there I went into the analogy of the duck. "Reward and punishment are like the two wings of a duck. What happens if a duck has only one wing?"

"It can't fly." Shoghi was so happy that he knew that answer.

"And what if it has one strong wing, and one weak wing."

"It still can't fly."

"How about if it has two weak wings?"

"Oh, then it's dead."

"Well, maybe not dead, but can it fly?"

"Of course not."

"How about if it has two strong wings?"

"Then it can fly, and be happy." Shoghi was beaming at this.

From there, I decided to see if I could go a bit further with the analogy.

"So, Shoghi, you understand that justice needs both reward and punishment, right? For it to work?"

"Yes, Papa." He was so cute when he said that, stuffing a couple more pieces of the cinnamon bun in his mouth.

"I'm going to describe another bird for you, and I want you to tell me what the other wing is. OK?"

"Mmmf ffmff."

"If the human race was a bird, and man was one wing, what would the other wing be?"

He swallowed, and took a sip of juice. "Woman?"

"That's right. How about if everything you know is the bird. If one wing is science, what is the other wing?"

He thought about that for a minute. The woman at the next table looked at me in confusion, and possibly in alarm that I would give my young child so difficult a question. Then he said, "Religion."

The lady was impressed. So was I, even though I had told him this before. The fact is, he remembered it.

From there, the rest of our conversation was about how the human race would be if women were not given an equal chance with men, or if we only learned science and not religion, or vice versa. His simple answers to my "simple" questions really made an impression on me.

They also made an impression on the woman who was listening in. She was obviously moved by the simplicity of our conversation, and the fact that I, a father, was teaching his son the importance of the equality of women and men. The fact that I naturally included the harmony of science and religion also seemed to make an impression.

Teaching the faith can be so easy when we make it a natural part of our life, and not just when you have a child. Shoghi just takes it for granted that elevated conversations are the norm, and that, too, catches the attention of others.

I truly feel that I learn so much from him over these breakfast conversations, both in content and in context.

Maybe next time I'll take him to Dave's for his cinnamon bun.

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