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When Rev. Roger Teel, minister of the Mile Hi Church of Religious Science in Denver, was a shy and awkward-feeling high school senior, his father encouraged him to take a date to the senior prom. Roger's dad even offered to underwrite a corsage for a young lady and dinner at a fine restaurant. Nervously, young Roger asked one of his classmates to the prom, and to his happy surprise, she accepted.
Finally the big night came and Roger picked up the girl at her home. She looked ravishing! He took one look at her bare shoulders graced by a spaghetti-strap dress, and his knees grew weak. Somehow Roger maintained his decorum and the two drove to the restaurant, staring straight ahead, speaking hardly a word. Apparently the girl was as nervous as he was!
At the restaurant, the young lady ordered scallops and Roger ordered a steak. When the entrées arrived, Roger, still feeling uptight, reached to cut his steak, and something horrible happened: his knife slipped and the steak flew off the plate, right past his date's spaghetti-strapped shoulder, and onto the floor! (It was one of those events one watches in slow motion, with just enough time to think, "I can't believe this is really happening!") Young Roger, of course, felt completely mortified, at an utter loss about what to say. Here he is on his first big date with a knockout babe, and he blew it right out of the chute!
Before he could think of what to say, the maitre d', who had watched the entire episode, dashed to the table. "I am so sorry, sir," he blurted out, terribly apologetically, with the errant beef, now napkin-covered, in hand. "The chef placed your entrée on the wrong kind of plate. It would have slipped out of anyone's hands. Please accept my apology. I'll get a replacement for you immediately." A few minutes later a waiter returned with a new steak -- on a different colored plate -- and made a big deal about the order now being on the appropriate "steak plate."
There was, of course, no problem with the original plate; it was a perfect steak plate. The maitre d', you see, was a perfect angel. The man had a keen eye and a huge heart. He saved Roger's date and his honor. As Roger left the restaurant, the maitre d' flashed him a kind and wise smile.
When I heard this story, I stopped in my tracks. What a powerful model for compassion in action! I pray that I might be so sensitive to support others in their sense of well-being and transform potentially painful situations with a stroke of kindness.
Here we are approaching the Christmas season. More than anything else, Jesus stood for compassion and forgiveness. He used every opportunity to remind people that they were whole and loved, and that the spiritual path was not about underscoring sin, but remembering innocence.
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Every year I become a bit less interested in the social aspects of the holiday season and more interested in its spiritual poignancy. Every year I buy a few less gifts and seek more to be a gift. I don't want any more stuff; I just want connection.
One man who lived the spirit of the holiday was Jay Frankston, a Jewish man who wanted more meaning in his life. One December Jay went to the mother of all post offices, the one on 34th Street in New York City, where he picked through the letters that children had written to Santa Claus at the North Pole. Jay became so inspired by these children's touching requests for things beyond toys that he decided to play Santa Claus and deliver gifts to these kids in poor sections of town.
Jay chronicles his adventures in his book, A Christmas Story, A True Story. I cry every time I read this account -- it is right up there with the flying-steak returning-waiter. (You can find the book at Amazon.com; it is listed as appropriate for ages 4-8, but don't believe a word of that. Adults need this book a lot more than kids.) Okay, so maybe I will buy some gifts this holiday -- I'll give my friends Jay's book.
Someone asked, "Why become a Buddhist when you can be the Buddha?" At this holiday time we might ask some similar questions: "Why become a Christian when you can be an expression of the Christ?" or "Why be Jewish when you can recognize yourself to be one with the great I Am?" or "Why write a letter to Santa when you can be Santa?"
We are prone to seek salvation from someone out there, when meanwhile we are the salvation we seek. Perhaps the most cogent statement about how we give our power away came from former child movie star Shirley Temple Black, who reported, "I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph."
Our roles in the play of compassion often reverse; sometimes we are the vulnerable kid knocking the steak off the plate and sometimes we are the observant maitre d' swooping in for the save. My guess is that the more we can practice being the kind maitre d' for others, the easier it will be for ourselves the next time our steak flies over our date's shoulders.
The Offering: A Series of Meditations on the Meaning of Life (Paperback)
by Jay Frankston.
From his early encounters with anti-semitism as a boy in Paris in the late 1930s to his narrow escape from the fires of the Holocaust, Jay Frankston has sought to find meaning. The Offering is an expression of this quest and the many steps along the way.
About The Author
Alan Cohen is the bestselling author of A Course in Miracles Made Easy and of the newly-released Spirit Means Business. Become a professional certified holistic life coach through Alan’s 6-month program beginning January, 2020—the year of clear vision. For more information about this program, Alan’s books and videos, free daily inspirational quotes, online courses, and weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com