Sometimes bad things happen when the last thing you need is a bad situation.
And sometimes you are the cause of those bad things.
Our office is hosting its own version of the Olympics later this month, and last Friday was the opening ceremony, which was also accompanied by a potluck lunch. I decided to bake a birthday cake to bring because that’s the national import and export of the country some of my coworkers and I created. I’ve made cupcakes before, but I had never made a cake, so I was a little nervous. I mean, I wasn’t even able to sample part of it to make sure it tasted alright because that would ruin it. Plus, I am not good at making icing look good, so this was all new to me. (I even almost baked it in completely the wrong type of pan, but thankfully my friend Meghan told me the right one to use and even a special baking spray with flour in it that would help it not stick to the pan.)
I was pretty sure the cake turned out like a normal cake should have, and the icing on it didn’t even look that awful. I was pretty excited that I made something that wasn’t a complete disaster when I thought it might be.
But I managed to change that pretty quickly.
There’s a lid for the pan, and I figured that was the best thing to use to cover the cake. It was either that or aluminum foil, and I thought the foil might get smashed down and destroy the icing. The lid looked like it gave barely enough breathing room between it and the cake so that everything would remain intact.
It turns out that saying about looks being deceiving is sometimes true.
When I took the lid off of the cake at work, a lot of the icing—and even some of the cake—came with it. I had one of those moments when you simply stare at the situation before you for longer than you should because you have no idea what you should do. I had brought the icing pen with me in case I needed to touch up the writing on the cake, but I didn’t have the white icing with me. And a “touch-up” wasn’t exactly the only thing needed. I did my best to rewrite the wording that had left its home, but it didn’t look good at all. I decided to write a short note to put with the cake that said, “There was a situation. This cake is still edible and probably delicious.” so that people would know they didn’t need to avoid this particular dessert.
But the note didn’t help—I’m pretty sure only two people tried it, and it was probably out of pity.
The thing is, though, the cake probably did still taste pretty delicious. It was straight from a box, and I followed all of the directions. Plus, I tried a little of it later and thought it was a tasty cake. But people weren’t willing to give it a chance because it wasn’t as pretty as all of the other desserts next to it. It was messy and looked like it had been through quite a lot—kind of like many of us.
I think sometimes we forget to factor in the experiences people have gone through and too quickly come to our own conclusions about them. We assume that because of the way things appear in their lives that we shouldn’t have anything to do with them. But aren’t we all like cakes with smudged icing in a way? Don’t we all have our own issues and messes and histories and stories—those ones that make us who we are and have shaped us into the people we are today? Don’t we need those things in our past that have led us to where we are today? Life isn’t always pretty, and there will be times when things in our own lives look like complete disasters.
So why should we treat others like the passed-up cakes that we never want to be?
Cakes are made to be eaten. People are made to love and be loved. Sometimes life is going to be pretty, and other times it will be downright ugly. We can’t expect every single person in our lives to be a perfectly iced and pristine cake—because sometimes reality happens, and people don’t always think about the lid ruining the icing. But it’s important that we don’t push people out of our lives simply because they have messes or because we have messes. People need help through messes. People need love through messes. People need each other through messes.
And people need cake—even if it’s a mess.