Cake or Compassion? You can have Both!

My husband leaves me notes. I find them, usually curled up in the coffee cup next to our ancient Mr. Coffee, while the rest of the house is sleeping. He writes them before he goes to bed, which is sometimes only a few hours before I get up.

This morning’s note read:

“Paul sends his love and says that he can’t think of a time that he felt more cared for than when you made him a birthday cake.”

Paul was initially a professional associate of Rob. After a short time, they became friends. Paul is twenty-ish years Rob’s senior, divorced with grown children.

Early in their friendship, Rob invited Paul to eat dinner with our family. That afternoon, Rob mentioned that it was Paul’s birthday. Birthdays may not require lavish gifts–or any gifts–but they do call for cake. I hurried out to get what I needed, including what I guessed to be sixty candles, and whipped it together. While I did this for Paul, I also did so for the enjoyment of recognizing a special moment in someone’s life and the taste of cake. (I love cake.)

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I knew Paul appreciated the gesture then. I didn’t know, these many years later, that he regards the simple act as the superlative expression of care direct toward him.

That “achievement”–for lack of a better word–is remarkable.

We spend our days trying so hard with so many of our intimate relations to be considerate and thoughtful and well-regarded. Then, out of nowhere, we can “achieve” connection and compassion with someone we don’t know well, or even at all.

And maybe that’s why Paul was so appreciative of that cake: he didn’t expect the wife of someone he was just getting to know to take the time to do that. Maybe that’s why anonymous donors of large sums of money are seen as extra-special and the selfless acts of kindness by strangers are regarded as the exemplification of generosity.

Whatever the reason, Paul’s years-after recognition will inspire me to keep my eyes and ears open for other chance to be spontaneous and thoughtful with friends and acquaintances.

And there’s always room for cake.

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