"The Bread Story"
I moved to California to live with my grandparents when I was in the fourth grade. They provided a stable home for me where, as a very young man, I could learn many of life's most important lessons. I think it would come as a surprise to my grandparents that many of the greatest things they taught me were not the kinds of things you learn when someone is trying to teach you something. Rather, these life lessons were learned by me simply observing my grandparents as they went through their day-to-day lives. I was often not consciously aware that I was learning anything at all until many years later.
Let me give an example. I was always willing to get in the car and go anywhere with my grandparents just for the "adventure" of it, even if it was just to Howie's, the small neighborhood market near our house. We often shopped there; it was somewhat like shopping in Mayberry. To this day, Howie's remains a place where everybody calls you by name and the butcher knows exactly how thick to cut your steaks.
One day while shopping with my grandmother, we made our way up and down the aisles of the small store, selecting various items on her list until we eventually came to the bread aisle. My grandmother asked me to reach for a loaf of bread on one of the lower shelves. As I quizzically looked at all the loaves of bread, my grandmother pointed to the dark heavy rye bread. "Get the ryebread. Your grandfather will like that; it's his favorite!" she said. And so I handed her the dark rye bread, she added it to the other items in our cart and we were on our way.
I really didn't give it much thought until a week or two later, when I was at the same market with my grandfather. We were picking up a few items for my grandmother. Being a civil engineer, my grandfather was always very organized and would rewrite my grandmother's grocery list in the order of the market. And so in a very systematic fashion we found ourselves on the bread aisle. My grandfather asked me to get a loaf of bread. I reached for the dark rye bread, knowing now that this was the bread he liked. But instead my grandfather asked me to get the Pepperidge Farm thin sliced white bread. "Grandpa, I thought you liked the rye bread!" I said, more as a question than a statement. "I do," he said, "but your grandmother likes this other bread, so that's what we'll get."
That day, even as a young grade school kid, I learned a very important lesson about love. I don't think you could have picked any two breads that differed more than the dark rye and the thin sliced white. They each gave up a chance to get what they wanted, giving preference to the other. In turn they each got what they liked, but more importantly, they each got to show their love for one another by giving to the other one something they enjoyed. It seems a very simple thing, but isn't life made up of such simple things?
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interest of others. (Phil. 2:4)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love,
give preference to one another in honor. (Rom 12:10)