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Loving Those Black Burgers

Posted by Priscilla on September 22, 2014

10679673_871543816190445_2649146588138443081_o.jpgI sat in a meeting last week and heard the Treasurer say, “I’m here to give you the bad news.” And it was bad. Too many commitments. Too few resources. Companies go bankrupt with that scenario. Families visit food pantries. Countries default. The treasurer’s talk was sobering and indeed, we were sobered and perhaps a bit fearful. What shall we do? What cuts shall we make? Can we handle the changes? And now we had eighteen minutes for Q and A between leaders and the led.

Right then, a man about halfway back in the crowd spoke up. Rather than Q and A, he suggested, why don’t we list all the wonderful things we are doing, all the successes we have had this year, all the ways we are thankful.

Uh, no.

We were pressed for time. We had problems to solve. Why use up precious moments in a sentimental exercise? No one said all that, of course, but clearly, we were practical Americans and needed to get on with it.

Which got me thinking, of all things, about gratitude. Say we’re all seated at the table of life about to be served dinner. Life brings you your plate, and it is piled high with tasty nuggets, healthy greens, and even some nourishing extras. Colorful, delicious, appealing to all your senses, you are full of excitement. “This is so great!”

My plate appears with only a lone burger. A black burger. Black bun, black cheese, black, black, black.  Really? What, you ran out of parsley for a garnish?

“Try it,” Life says and smiles at me. “Look—protein, dairy, whole grains—what more could you want?”

What, indeed? 


A funny thing happens, though, while I chew the burger. I watch you spoon up sweet money in the bank, then try a forkful of literary success, with a sprinkling of cool vacations in Aruba. I watch you dip into a dish of excellent children smothered with creamy perfect deathbed goodbyes. I see all the goodness you have, and I decide to try to taste, really taste the black burger in front of me. I close my eyes and suddenly, there it is—I can taste the salty tang of squid ink and the smoky undertones of blackened bamboo. My taste buds quiver at the warm fat of prime beef while my tongue slides over the silkiness of fresh cheese. The toasted bun crackles under my teeth and satisfies a hollow pit in my stomach and I realize something. I realize that I love the black burger. I love its simplicity, I love its crazy wildness, I love its varied flavors.

You were given a great plate. It’s very good. But once I made the effort to taste my black burger, once I received my burger with gratitude, I realized that this black burger was exactly the right plate for me because it satisfied me.

So what’s the point of indulging in the sentimental exercise of counting our blessings? Is it not to effect fundamental change in our economy? He who has, is given more, after all. The best way to add to our lacking resources is to be conscious and thankful for the resources we have and to eagerly begin to work within those constraints.

What does this mean for the writer?

It is too easy for us to indulge in jealousy and envy of someone else’s life. The plate they get looks so good, while ours looks empty or disgusting. One way to handle our lack is to become superior and disdainful of another’s plate. Empty calories, we sniff. Just wait till he gets diabetes. In this month’s Poets & Writers, Steve Almond writes about this very problem. He says “It’s daunting to be surrounded by ten thousand people who all want the same thing  . . . . People wind up feeling powerless, which leads them to seek the cheapest available form of power: the power to judge.”  He goes on to point out that artistic growth can only happen in the context of gratitude and humility

Is it possible that whatever plate we’ve been given is the exact plate we need right now? Constant rejections, abundant advances, shrinking numbers, a plethora of speaking invitations, world fame or even obscurity matter little if we cannot taste what we find on our plates.

What do you think?






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