Last month I said I was going to be blogging my way through Alex Guarnaschelli’s new cookbook, and I still plan to do that. However, a change in my financial situation has made it challenging to do so at present. Not having been to the grocery store much, or made much more then quesadillas and Mexican pizzas, my life experiences have not left me overflowing with inspiration. I had originally thought about writing about the lessons to be learned from lamb fries, my friend Heather would love to see me do that, and perhaps I will at some point in the future. Unbelievably there are some spiritual lessons to be learned from lamb’s testicles and testicles in general. However, the random act of kindness from another friend changed all that.
It was a random act of kindness. Friends of mine, who are also struggling financially, called yesterday to see if I needed anything while they were at the grocery store. The truth was I had several things I would have loved to ask them to pick up. The reality, however, was that I had no money at present to reimburse them, so I said thanks but not now. “Are you sure? Your pantry looked a little empty the last time I was over.” So I compromised and gave them a list of about five ingredients on the condition they would let me split the tray of baked ziti with them. And so it was.
Sometimes we have to have nothing to appreciate something. Thich Nhat Hanh tells the story of how in his monastery in Plum Village there are days that there is no warm water, or water at all, with which to shower. When the water returns, there is a sense of gratitude with which you appreciate the water and all that allowed the water to come to you. This is how I am feeling about this tray of baked ziti. The smell of the sauce as it cooks just fills the air. The ziti seems tenderer then ever. I know when it is done, it will be one of those trays where I will savor each noodle for the amazing gift it is.
It is amazing how random acts of kindness can heighten our senses and change our appreciation of food. This way of feeding two families reminded me of how I got through some rough months while I was in seminary. The men in my complex, who loved my cooking, worked out a deal with me. They would buy the food, I would cook, and we would share the final product. I was their personal chef and they were my food suppliers. I was constantly cooking southern classics for my “customers.” It was our way of sharing our blessings with each other and keeping the positive karma going.
This morning I learned about a chain of restaurants called Karma Kitchen. There are no prices on the menu. At the end of your meal, your bill is “$0.00 with only this footnote: "Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those dine after you."
Run by volunteers, Karma Kitchen’s “meals are cooked and served with love, and offered to the guest as a genuine gift. To complete the full circle of giving and sustain this experiment, guests make contributions in the spirit of pay-it-forward to those who will come after them. In keeping this chain going, the generosity of both guests and volunteers helps to create a future that moves from transaction to trust, from self-oriented isolation to shared commitment, and from fear of scarcity to celebration of abundance.”
When was the last time you passed the Karma on to someone? Paid it forward for a cup of coffee? How about a meal at your local restaurant (fast food or otherwise)? Have you considered doing this as part of our Kindness Project? Download your own Kindness Project cards and spread the “karma” and “kindness” in whatever food or beverage establishment you frequent. Just pay it forward and leave a card to inspire the next person to keep paying it forward.
 Karma Kitchen http://www.karmakitchen.org/