As a child, I enjoyed watching my mother make soup in the kitchen. Till today, my favourite food is home brewed soup. Just give me a steaming bowl of soup and I can chow down an entire bowl of plain plain rice.
I was fascinated with soups as it seemed almost magical. One just had to boil some pork bone in a pot of water, throw in a few vegetables and voila, the individual ingredients combine to become a melting pot of wholesome goodness!
One day, I noticed my mother hovering over a pot of boiling pork bone, skimmer in hand.
Curious, I asked.
“Mama, what are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m just removing the scum from the soup ”
“What’s... scum?” I asked, instinctively not liking the feel of the word.
She looked down at me and smiled. She tried to explain in simple terms.
“Scum is the dirty stuff that comes out of the pork bone and floats to the top when we first boil it. We have to remove as it is unhealthy and affects the taste of the soup “
I shrugged in surprise.
“Then why don’t we just throw away the pot of soup with the scum and start over again ? This way, you don’t have to sweat over the stove!”
Mum laughed heartily.
“My dear girl, that would be a perfect waste of a good broth ! The broth would not be as flavourful when you boil the bone a second time”
Just then, she had finished removing the last bit of scum and lifted me up so I could look into the pot and see for myself.
There! Doesn’t the broth look clear and smell good now? “
She then threw in carrots, onions and potatoes and let the soup boil for an hour more. Later that evening, we enjoyed a hearty bowl of ABC soup.
I didn’t realise it then, but looking back, Mama had taught me an important life lesson that day in the kitchen.
In life, we may not always land the dream job, meet the dream guy or girl and have flowers strewn in our paths by adoring fans.
On the contrary , often we face daily little trials by way of clashing personalities at work or home and humiliating situations. Instead of a bed of roses, life is more like a self refilling cup of daily little struggles. Is it possible to always have a cup that runneth over with joy?
St Padre Pio, St Therese and countless saints had said “Blessed are those who have learned to suffer and profit from it” These are people who had suffered greatly while they were still living. And yet, the common denominator among them is joy amidst suffering . It’s like they had unearthed some secret.
I think I see a glimmer of that in the pork bone story.
Hypothetically, let’s say you made an unintentional mistake at work, resulting in a harsh lecture by your superior. Understandably, you feel grievously hurt, your good intentions misunderstood and ready to throw in the towel.
Putting things in perspective, if you were the pork bone, the pot would be the environment and the fire the unsavoury situation. The scum represents the hurt feelings and the broth, the valuable lesson learned from the mistake.
Would it be wise to throw away the entire contents, broth and scum? Or would it be better to sieve out the scum of negativity and blame using a filter of humility and patience with self and others ? After all, the mistake had already been made and the wound been inflicted. Why not make the best of it?
On a side note, perhaps it’s also worthwhile to reflect, where did the scum come from? Was it in the fire or in the pork bone? As much as we would like to think otherwise, the scum had been latent in the pork bone all the while in the form of our own insecurities, fear of failure, desire to look good to others and to be in control . Basically, in one word, our pride.
The fire was just catalyst. Had we boiled an orange instead, we would have gotten an aromatic orange fragrance instead of the murky scum.
Nevertheless, isn’t it more profitable to extract the broth of experience and allow it to simmer over the heat of correction so that we can move on to make a pot of delicious soup? A soup that warms hearts? Even if we feel indignant about the situation, there is something positive which can be gleaned from the whole incident. At least our hearts are softened and we’d resolve to treat others with more compassion when they make the same mistake.
Whether we be pork, chicken or fish bones, let us become the best bone broth we can be. Through surrendering to the refining flames of humiliation and a keen awareness of our own littleness, let us be transformed by the grace of God and learn to see things through the lens of mercy.
Become a broth that complements and brings out the flavours of others around us, whether they be potatoes ,turnips, carrots or corn. This way, we’ll be happy no matter what ingredients we are coupled with in the pot or if we are transferred to another pot.
For at the end of the day, we are not called to be successful, but we are called to be faithful. We may not all be able to do great works but it is enough to do the little things entrusted to us with great love. For as Mother Teresa aptly said after all it was never between you and them, but between you and God.
Sounds simple? Yes. Easy? Nope. I m still learning and trying to run the race. But when I m tired, I know I can rest in my Lord whose yoke is easy and burden light.
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