In which cheating in the presence of an angel unexpectedly helped me become a better person.
This story begins when a friend pointed out a promotion in the pages of a Portland-based culinary magazine. She knew I was moving to the Pacific Northwest, and she knew I loved chocolate. If I answered an online survey about the magazine, I’d be entered into a drawing for two free Missionary Chocolates truffles. Why not? I thought.
Well…because I never actually read the magazine.
I felt a little guilty taking the survey, but I rationalized that I rarely win any kind of drawing. So of course….I did!
I chose to redeem my ill-gotten gains in person, at the Missionary Chocolates shop, because I had time and I was curious. The shop was clean and nice, and founder Melissa Berry was kind and enthusiastic. I picked out my two prize truffles….but there was more to come.
“Here, why don’t you try some of these?” Melissa said, pulling over a small cutting board on which were assorted truffle pieces. My conscience poked me again, and I started to politely decline, but she explained: “We’re about to close up, and these are left from today’s tasting samples.” She started loading up different flavored bits into plastic baggie, reeling off a list of flavors: lemon, Earl Grey, lavender, chipotle. I stood there open-mouthed, wrestling with my conflicting feelings: guilt, confusion, amazement, happiness. In a daze (or maybe it was a sugar high), I walked out the front door, with the equivalent of four to six chocolate truffles dangling from my fingers.
Little did I know, this small baggie stuffed with enough amazing, pure-hearted, chocolatey goodness to stun a rhino would become the battleground for my very soul. At home, tasting slivers of every flavor, the internal dialogue started.
“Score!” said one part of my brain. “OMG! This is amazing! Now I can die happy.”
“You lied!” said another part of my brain. “You got this chocolate under false pretenses! You need to do something to make up for it! You can’t eat it all yourself!”
In the end, I shared some of the chocolate with friends, and ate the rest over time, careful not to kill myself with happiness. By the time I licked the last few molecules from my fingers, I knew I’d eaten the most complicated (and delicious) chocolate of my life, and that I’d be digesting the lessons of these smooth, velvety, intensely-flavored goodies for many years to come.
This experience changed me, including in some ways I still don’t fully understand. I still go back and forth between shame and bliss, trying to sort it all out. I still have questions:
- Why is generosity so hard for me sometimes?
- Why was I so selfish when it came to chocolate?
- Why did I feel so compelled to enter a drawing for chocolate even though I knew I didn’t really meet the criteria?
- Am I a sugar addict? Or an addict in some other way?
But I did learn some things.
- Don’t lie. Be honest. Don’t misrepresent yourself. Don’t do things under false pretenses. Just don’t. Because wrong, and because f*ck, it gets complicated.
- “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.”
- There really is such a thing as sugar addiction.
- Some childhood programming around food still affects me today. I don’t have to follow up every opportunity for free food.
- This experience was meant to humble me, not shame me. It was meant to teach me, to make me a better person. It did, and I still have a long way to go.
- I need to understand what generosity means to me and how I am going to make it happen. (Also see Little Horses.)
I keep the empty truffle box on my bookshelf to remind me to stay honest, and continually strive to be a better and more generous person. I now believe that, at the Missionary Chocolates shop, I was in the presence of an angel and didn’t even know it.
Missionary Chocolates was born of a generous impulse, and Melissa’s generosity at the shop and her generosity to local causes makes her an amazing role model. I will keep trying to carry her example forward.
A story behind one of the cards in The Tarot of Michelle. Read the original post here or follow the developmental art as a Patron on Patreon.