life lessons from a twin-pack of Pop Tarts

To Be Told team chapters

Cross-cultural living can be exciting. Boring. Confusing. Eye-opening. Here’s a story I shared on another website about a year ago, talking about one of those eye-opening moments.

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Somewhere in the skies between our sleepy little town of Sandefjord and the bustling capital of the Netherlands, we sat side by side. Trays down, awaiting whatever culinary masterpiece the Dutch airline had carefully selected as the snack for coach class.

I watched as my 13-year-old seated next to me opened the cheese and yogurt sandwich, and ate it rather quickly. While it’s not so odd for him to devour food, this did not seem like something he would consume with such haste.

But in a matter of a couple of minutes, the tiny paper box was emptied of its contents. And then he began rummaging through his backpack. Soon, he produced on his tray table a rectangular silver package.

I looked at his face and saw a look of pure happiness. He carefully opened the wrapper and withdrew its contents: two frosted cherry-filled pastries.

Most American teenagers would recognize these without a second thought. And most would probably not understand the gravity of this moment (okay, a bit melodramatic, but humor me…). But for my boy, this was a rare treat: a delicacy in its time and place. A gift from recent American visitors, my blonde-headed man-child sat and relished every last bite of his beloved Pop-Tarts.

As I watched, I was first reminded that often the simple things are the best. Big vacations we’ve taken are punctuated in our children’s minds by the night we stayed up late eating junk food and watching movies. Or the time they got to ‘skate’ in their shoes across a frozen parking lot. Or the fun of taking a bath in a garden tub (we only have a shower).

I also thought about the fact that you often don’t realize your desires or affections until they’re removed from you. Or maybe you don’t realize the things you really could do without until they aren’t right under foot. Not that my boy is driven by a love of Pop-Tarts. But the metaphor is there. Something that was once inexpensive and readily available has now become rare, and a highly-prized indulgence.

This non-event reminded me of how we need to take time to enjoy the things we love. Again, it was only Pop-Tarts. But how many times do I zip through moments of significance, and instead live in constant anticipation, continually waiting for whatever is next? While there is always a danger of letting the small joys of life become big distractions, there is also a balance.

We all have certain interests, passions. So long as they don’t distract from who we were created to be, we should take the time to enjoy them.

All this from a pack of Pop-Tarts. Who knew what a twin-pack of toaster pastries could hold?

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