One look at that candy dish was all it took – – flashback!
“Come with me to the store. I’ve got to pick up some more candy before tomorrow.” Another detour home from school and all my teenage self wanted to do was just go veg out at home in front of the TV. “Again? You just bought some the other day!”
Exasperated, Mom replied, “I know, I know… it just runs out so fast.”
For sixteen years, Mom worked at Bellaire Elementary School as the principal’s secretary. Back in the 80s that job title came with a multitude of other roles: school receptionist and greeter, phone operator, attendance clerk, nurse, record keeper, counselor, office runner, friend AND candy supplier. She managed those jobs like a rockstar with her incredible work ethic and kindness while always dressed to the nines in a constantly coordinated wardrobe.
The stress of keeping up with the supply and demand of Mom’s candy ritual – back in the days before the fine invention of Mega Bags – kept her on her toes. And it wasn’t cheap to maintain either.
“Why don’t you just put a collection jar next to the candy dish? Maybe people will donate some money so you don’t have to buy this all yourself.”
Mom quickly shrugged off my suggestion. “No, no. I’m fine.”
Our candy errand days were over when Mom finally decided to take donations through her very own collection jar. I remember the happy tone of relief in her voice as she explained how her basic selection of sweets went from Brach’s hard candy and Lifesavers to Hershey’s kisses and other chocolates, all thanks to the co-workers and parents who donated both money and their own favorite bags of treats.
Fast forward over twenty years later. One morning at Metropolitan Hospital, I walk into the Labor and Delivery Unit and am greeted by a colorful array of candy in a clear plastic dish displayed near our newly hired unit secretary, Tish. Trial sizes of Snickers, Milky Ways, Starburst and Butterfinger – “the good stuff” – was filled to the brim. It welcomed me to work and took me on a trip down memory lane. Normally, my mouth would water at the site of chocolate, but this time, my eyes did.
My usual, emotional self wanted so badly to share every detail of me and Mom’s candy history story with Tish. “This reminds me of my mom! She used to have a candy dish on her desk when she was a school secretary.”
As the words came out, I noticed Tish had multiple phones and nurses’ call lights to answer, charts to make, and hospital guests to greet. But being the multitasker she is, Tish managed to quickly and kindly respond. “She did? That’s sweet. Yeah, go ahead and have some.”
I regrouped, thanked her, and then took her up on the offer and dug right in, joining my hardworking co-workers in the task of devouring those yummy treats. Lord knows how many times Tish refilled that dish during a 12-hour shift. Her little candy dish reminded me of the fish and loaves basket from the Bible — always filled and ready to serve and perfect whether in times of stress, in times of celebration, or in need of a simple meal replacement.
“Man, Tish!” I exclaimed, munching on my upteenth snack-size Snickers bar. “This candy goes fast! That stuff is expensive.”
I recalled the cost of filling my kids’ birthday pinatas, Halloween pumpkins, and Easter baskets. As I handed her a few dollars in appreciation for satisfying my sweet tooth, I told her the details of Mom’s candy season as a school secretary. “Maybe you can put a donation jar out like my Mom did so people can contribute to this candy dish.”
Just like Mom, she responded humbly, “It’s okay, I don’t mind.”
Just like Mom, Tish helps make our unit run smoother with her kindness, efficiency, and grace – – with an added touch of sweetness.
Just like Jesus with his miraculous basket of fish and loaves, Mom and Tish’s candy dishes serve as that reminder that when there is Love, there is ALWAYS abundance.