I’d like to tell you a story about the best baker in all the world.
He could do wonders with flour and butter and eggs and salt. He made French pastires filled with custard and covered with chocolate. He brought Italian biscotti to that perfect balance of sweetness and crunch. He could turn out a Japanese mochi that danced with tart and sweet.
He made apple pies. Lemon cakes. Liliko’i tarts. And, of course, because no baker’s repertoire is complete with them: malasadas.
He knew he was the best baker. He had time and he had the means, so he traveled all of the world, and all over the world he’d sample pastries, and pies, and breads, and filled buns. He ate tres leches cake in Mexico, and sesame cake in China.
And wherever he went, he never tasted anything without knowing – because he’d tried it – that he’d made one that was better.
The trouble was, he was the only person who knew this. He was the only person who ever tasted what he baked, or fried, or steamed.
I’ve never known why this was so. Maybe he was shy, and didn’t want to embarrass himself (as if he would). Maybe he was just plain greedy and selfish and didn’t want to share. Maybe he wanted us all to be healthy and didn’t want to feed us so much sugar. I don’t really know.
But he was the only person who ever tasted what he made.
So… Let me tell you about the second-best baker in the world.
She, too, made amazing cakes, and pies, and tarts, and rolls, and pastries, and (of course) an astounding malasada. Hers weren’t always the best – I know, for instance, that the best squash pies are made by someone who lives in Norwalk, Connecticut – but on the whole, she was the best baker that anybody had every known.
You see, everybody believed that she was the best baker in the world, because she shared. When she made cookies, other people got to eat them. Her cakes got cut up and shared at parties. They went far and wide.
People tasted her glazes and their eyes would glaze over in wonder.
They’d go pie-eyed in astonishment at a bite of her pies.
And as her pastries disappeared, those who enjoyed them wore grins
pastried plastered all over their faces.
Now, if I could choose between being one of them or the other…
If I could choose between being the best baker in the world and never seeing the joy on another face from tasting my work, or being the second-best baker in all the world and sharing widely, I know exactly which I’d be.
I’d be the second-best, and I’d share.
May all of us always, always, choose the same.
This story was told in worship during the installation of the Rev. Eric Anderson as Pastor of Church of the Holy Cross UCC in Hilo, Hawai’i, on September 10, 2016.