I read the simple message while driving to work that morning. It was quite a few years ago but I remember the church’s sign: “Give To Others – Sacrifice” was its straightforward directive. As I pondered those words, I noticed another sign at a fast-food place across the street.
“Try Our Blueberry Biscuits”
Those words required no pondering.
I would indeed try them. Having ample time before work, I would even go inside to sit as I enjoyed their flaky goodness. I could smell the biscuits when I walked in to place my order. On a large rack behind the cashier, someone from the kitchen drizzled icing generously over a dozen or so freshly baked blueberry delights. I ordered two.
After all, the sign had clearly indicated plural.
My mouth watered as I sat at a table between a window and a row of potted palms. I spread my blueberry biscuits out before me, smelled their warm icing, and heard their plump blueberries calling to me. I noticed movement on the other side of the potted palms but my excitement over the biscuits kept me from looking up. Just as I was about to pick up the first biscuit, the movement stopped and I heard a woman’s voice.
“Are you Jesus?” she asked.
Not sure I had correctly heard such a question, I wiped the anticipatory biscuit drool from my mouth and waited for a second.
“Are you Jesus?” she asked again.
I turned to see a frowning elderly woman staring through the potted palms. I assumed she might be homeless when I saw her. Her clothes were frayed and wrinkled, and although her hair was pulled neatly back and held in place by a clean red ribbon, she was otherwise very disheveled and dirty. She carried a soiled tote bag on her arm.
“Are you Jesus?” she asked me for the third time. She frowned a bit harder.
I admit that I slid my blueberry biscuits towards the window on the far side of the table before I responded.
“No Ma’am”. I said. “Definitely not.” I spread an extra concealing napkin over my biscuits.
I thought she might leave once I had cleared up that little misidentification, but she lingered. She stood quietly by the potted palms a little longer. I kept the biscuits covered and willed my salivary glands to cease working. She edged closer to my table. I pushed the biscuits closer to the window.
She sat down across from me.
My biscuits cooled, my mouth watered, and guilt crept over me as I remembered the first message I had read that morning. “Give to Others – Sacrifice”.
Well, great. Why did I have to see the church sign just before being shown the door to blueberry deliciousness! Oh well. I removed one biscuit from its hiding place and slid it towards the elderly woman.
“You can have this.” I said.
She said absolutely nothing but took the biscuit, wrapped it tightly in the napkin, and slipped it into her tote bag. She still frowned. Not even the slightest smile.
There. I had “given to others”. I felt better, she had eagerly taken the biscuit, and as soon as she got up I could still enjoy the one I had left. I could smell it there under the napkin.
She didn’t get up.
“You have a good day, Ma’am.” I said, thinking she might move along.
She still didn’t get up. She frowned at the lump under my napkin.
I had already checked my watch several times and knew I had to get to work soon. I just wanted to eat my blueberry biscuit! I had done what the church sign said. I had “given to others”!
Well, the sign had said a little more than that, I thought as the elderly woman frowned persistently.
I uncovered my second biscuit and handed it to her, saying nothing. She took the second as eagerly as the first. She wrapped it quickly, slipped it into her tote bag, and walked to the door to go outside. She frowned all the while.
No matter, I thought. I could simply pick up another biscuit, or two, on my way out.
“We stopped making blueberry biscuits twenty minutes ago.” the cashier said. “No more back there.”
My stomach growled. So did I. One of my biscuits handed to the elderly woman was “giving”. Both of my biscuits handed to her, now that was “sacrifice”! But, she would enjoy them I kept telling myself, as I imagined her biting into the icing covered blueberry treats.
As I headed to my car, I heard their wings flapping before I saw them. Pigeons. So many pigeons flying in that they blocked my view of what attracted them. Then, through an opening in the flock, I saw what they were after.
An elderly woman with a tote bag. She crumbled and tossed piece after piece of blueberry biscuit into the air as pigeons scrambled to eat them.
She was smiling.
Stuart M. Perkins