Street Tales: Change for improvement

I make a mean pot of porridge, even if I say so myself. Although I have made it at the kitchen often, my way of making it developed at home. Using steel cut oats in a pot of water, I add a couple of scoops of brown sugar, enough cinnamon to make your hair stand on edge and let it boil until most of the water is gone. Then, removing it from heat I add raisins (my friend calls them humiliated grapes), and dried cherries. After a few minutes we just add milk and enjoy; that is until I made it for the grandkids and us when they came to visit.

Our son-in-law, knowing his way around the house quite well, walked over to the cupboard and pulling out a jug of maple syrup proceeded to douse his porridge with it. I spared no effort to let him know that there was already ample brown sugar mixed in to which he replied, “I find that it just adds to the taste a little more.” Totally mollified, I just shut my mouth to prevent saying anything I shouldn’t.

Later that week I made it again but this time I decided to try it as even the grandkids had loved it, and to my surprise, I found it actually did improve the taste, so now we use it all the time. It just goes to show you that not all change is destructive, it can actually make a significant improvement on an already incredibly perfect dish.

Whenever I make this at the kitchen, it is usually eaten in short order, the only thing there is no maple syrup, unless a jug is donated. What this did though was to remind me that change is a constant in life, whether I like it or not. Even though I seek it in some of the folks that come to the kitchen, I resist change for myself just like everyone else.

The biggest changes in life though are brought about through the use of words, whether written or spoken. Sadly the ones we hear the most are the words used by leaders whether good or bad. Donald Trump is an example of the not so good, but that’s only because he is on CBC Trump television every night and he learned how to twitter. His words are an example of the divisiveness that can be brought about by the careless use of words.

In universities around the world, students are assaulted constantly with words to make them think and believe a certain way, often in direct opposition to the way they were raised. Advertising uses words craftily to sway even the most resolute attitudes. The list of incidents is too numerous for this article, but when I see how it affects the folks downtown, I really question if we pay enough attention to the way words can influence us to make changes.

In the use of words, a friend made the following comments that should influence which words I use. He said you have to ask yourself these questions before you open your mouth: 1. Is it true, 2. Is it kind, 3. Is it helpful? The before I had collected my thoughts enough to answer, he followed it up with a question that just rocked me back on my heels.

Talk about a thought provoking question to make one reconsider shooting from the lip! I have listened to an awful lot of speakers in my seventy years, and though a lot of them have been excellent, more have been about themselves rather than to envelop or improve their community in a meaningful way.

His question then is to myself and others is as follows; “Do our words make a helpful change or an improvement on silence?”

Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.

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