It's throwback week at Inspirational Sweets! I recently enjoyed a "Hostess" style cupcake at Treat Cupcake Bar in Needham, Massachusetts. This cupcake looks just like the Hostess cupcakes we remember from childhood, but it's much, much better! It's a big chocolate cupcake, probably twice as big as a store-bought Hostess cupcake, topped with chocolate ganache and a delicate white icing design. It was filled with vanilla frosting. The cake was very chocolately and very moist, and the vanilla filling was deliciously sweet. I always liked Hostess cupcakes but I loved this cupcake. It was like Hostess had gone to heaven.
It was nice to be reminded of a favorite childhood snack. Whether or not Hostess cupcakes are still on the shelves (I believe they are) and despite wonderful reminders like the one from Treat, I still tend to think of Hostess cupcakes as a beloved dessert of the past. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that they are a beloved dessert of my past. For me, they were a favorite lunchbox treat, or an after-school treat, stuck in the 1970's with other favorites of that decade, like metal lunch boxes, ponchos, or Sno Cones from the ice cream truck.
I have a story that dates way back into the past, even farther back than the 1970's. It happened over fifty years ago, and although it takes place in the past, its message reaches far into the present.
A girl who was about fifteen years old unexpectedly became ill and had to miss school. At first the girl was really sick, and could not leave the house. But then the girl slowly began to get better. After some time, she was probably well enough to return to school. But so much time had passed, and now she didn't want to go back at all. She had gotten very used to being at home, and very used to not being at school. Days went by and she remained at home. This went on for some time. But at some point, her parents insisted that she had to go back. She had been home for forty-five days.
And so, back to school she went, feeling very reluctant and out of sorts.
There was another girl in school who was not a stranger to staying home. In fact, she was sick quite often. She missed school all the time, and everyone knew about it. There were rumors that maybe it was leukemia or some other very serious illness.
So at lunchtime, the first girl, who had been gone for forty-five days, uneasily sat down in the cafeteria and got ready to eat her lunch, thinking that she would probably rather be anywhere else than in that cafeteria. And then, she felt a hand on her shoulder.
It was the girl who was always sick, who was always missing school. They were not particularly friends, but suddenly there she was, on that very difficult day, the first day back.
"I understand," the girl told her.
She went on to say that she knew exactly how it felt, getting back to school, and that it wasn't easy. "But every day, it will feel a little bit better," she said. "You just have to keep coming."
It was a very small thing to do. A hand on a shoulder, a few sentences of encouragement. But what an impact it had. It really helped, in that very difficult moment, decades ago, in a high school cafeteria. And it is remembered, in great detail, to this day. So many moments, so many conversations, so many events, big and small, surely fade away as time goes by. But this one selfless moment, this one unexpected moment of compassion and empathy, has the power to remain. It can be brought back like it was yesterday, even though it happened over fifty years ago.
Acts of kindness have great power. And no expiration date.
Have a sweet week. And Happy Thanksgiving!