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by Lori Ann Curley
unless otherwise specified
Story written for Heroic Stories

Heroic Stories #390: The Pie

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 13:00:00 -0800
From: HeroicStories <>
Subject: HeroicStories #390: The Pie

Reaching more than 31,500 subscribers in 106 countries, this is...
HeroicStories #390: 10 March 2003        

The Pie
By Lori Ann Curley
Wisconsin, USA

For one weekend in late January every year, my parents volunteer for a church retreat. They don't lead any activities, but they prepare all the food, from meal planning to cooking to serving to cleaning up. Mum doesn't make food processed for bulk cooking, either. She buys all the individual ingredients and makes everything from scratch: Friday's taco feast, Saturday's breakfast with her special homemade cinnamon rolls, the soup and sandwich lunch, and a formal dinner Saturday night that includes chicken, baked potatoes, and homemade pie.

That's right, homemade pies for 60 to 100 people: blueberry, banana cream, chocolate, cherry, apple -- and my personal favorite, lemon meringue. Mum makes them all from scratch.

For almost a decade, I helped Mum and Poppy during this weekend-long feast. The only year I didn't help in the kitchen was the year I attended the retreat myself. Otherwise, I sliced vegetables, laid out the buffet, coordinated volunteers, and waited tables for Saturday's dinner -- whatever was needed.

One year, Mum discovered that one of the boys attending the retreat had diabetes. Most meals were no problem, as people with diabetes usually know how much carbohydrate is in a slice of bread, in taco meat, or in any other food served during the weekend. I noticed the boy looking longingly at the cinnamon rolls at breakfast, but he chose corn flakes over sugar-coated cereals, and took fruit instead of rolls, then went to sit by himself.

The retreat was famous for its homemade pies, though, and Mum didn't want this boy to feel left out. When the pies were placed on the buffet near the end of the formal dinner, I went around to each table announcing that dessert was ready, and listing the variety of pies. When I came to the table where the boy with diabetes sat, he didn't have the same look of excitement on his face that everyone else had. So I said to him, "You get a whole pie to yourself."

"What? But I...!" was all he could say before I interrupted him.

"It's made with a sugar substitute. You do like chocolate, right?" He nodded his head and his expression turned from sad to glad. "Good, I'll bring you a slice; everyone else has to go up to the buffet to fetch their own."

When I went into the kitchen for the pie, I told Mum to look at the boy. His face was beaming as he talked animatedly with the other people at his table. Mum said, "He looks like he finally feels he belongs here."

The main lesson Mum taught me about cooking was not a technique, but that the cook should tailor a meal for the people who will eat it. Her lesson applies far beyond cooking, because through cooking she taught me that serving people is about meeting their needs, not your own. Her example is with me always.


This issue sponsored by a friend of HeroicStories:
Tom Murrell

You can read his writings at:

Ruth in Indiana comments on "The Bookseller's Reminder" (#389): "My first thought on reading this story is that it was probably more important to Hazel that people read -- than his ever receiving payment for the books he let Jennefer take on promise of payment. Even now it's rare to find people that read books regularly and what a shame that is. I never throw books away. I'm always able to find a good home for them if I need the space in my (numerous) bookshelves. I hope Hazel's love of books is what Jennifer is now sharing with the world."

Jack in Arizona: "This story reminded me of my own debt. We were quite poor when I was young and while I could not afford to purchase any books I was still a voracious reader. The gap was filled by my hero: Andrew Carnegie. I know of his past misdeeds as he gathered his fortune in the steel industry, but it's what he did with his money that counts for me. He endowed public libraries, especially in New York. The branch I used was on Harrod Avenue in the Bronx. Between the ages of about 6 and 16 I read almost every book in the place; four to five books every 2 weeks. Now I can afford to buy what I read and have my own library of over 2000 books. But none are so precious as those I read thanks to Mr. Carnegie and to the wonderful -- and certainly underpaid -- librarians who were so sympathetic and helpful."

Terese in Washington D.C. "This story brought up memories of walking home from downtown on Christmas Eve because I'd spent even my streetcar fare at the secondhand bookstore next to the trolley stop. I was 16, in high school, and had just been paid at my part-time holiday job. Crowds at the street-car stop were mob-sized since people had delayed Christmas shopping until the last minute. I let a couple of streetcars fill up and leave but the crowd didn't seem to lessen. Since I was standing in front of a secondhand bookstore and getting cold, I went in. Just to look. I don't remember how much money I had going in, but I was flat broke coming out and my arms were loaded with books, one or two for just about everyone on my list plus a couple for me. The crowds at the trolley stop had diminished considerably. It no longer mattered because I didn't have the money to get on. My school transit tickets were no good with school
out. We lived about 50 blocks north, so I started walking. But it was
worth it, because of the treasures I had found!"

Dick in New Mexico adds perspective to "Benjamin's Trip" (#389). He quotes Tom in Wisconsin, who commented "Far too many people with a disability are trapped in that identity and don't have the chance to blossom into their full potential." Dick continues, "This is a very true statement, but so is the opposite side of the coin, which is not admitting to a handicap. Since I became handicapped with severe rheumatoid arthritis, I've found that a balance is quite necessary.While I've had to admit to my disability, I've tried never to give in to it without a fight. When I am capable of doing for myself, I do and constantly test the limits of my disabled state. To give in (and give up) to the mental state of disability is to live your life at less than it's full potential. To deny that you are disabled is foolish and keeps you from participating life to it's fullest. It's a fine balance, but one every disabled person needs to find and exercise."

A few weeks back we ran a comment from a fellow who sends HeroicStories to his prisoner pen pals. Another reader worried that this might make the authors targets for cons by prisoners. We asked our pen pal reader to ask the prisoners what they got out of HeroicStories. In next Monday's issue we'll share the replies. Trust me, you don't want to miss this.

Joyce Schowalter, Editor in Chief
Co-Conspirator to Make the World a Better Place

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