One of my secret pleasures is to eat saltine crackers, slathered with butter. The only thing better is hot French bread, slathered with butter. I think the key here is that the carbohydrate product needs to be slathered with butter. Unless it is graham crackers – then I like them slathered with vanilla frosting. So, maybe it’s not the butter – perhaps it’s the slathering that is the key.
Today I was buttering my saltines and suddenly this story I was told as a child popped into my head. I think a leader or teacher at the Mormon Church I used to attend told us this story as part of a religious lesson – so I guess that makes it a parable of sorts. However, while I can remember every detail of the story, I can’t – for the life of me – recall what the point of the story was.
Dwelling on it and pondering the meaning of the story dang near ruined my slathered saltine eating experience – so I figured I would tell you the story – and then we could speculate together why this story would have been important in a life lesson learning kind of way. So pay attention and put your thinking caps on.
It starts with a poor woman who has scrimped and saved for many years in order to take her dream vacation – a cruise. Or it may have been a poverty stricken European woman who had finally saved enough, after years of sacrifice, to book passage on an ocean liner in order to immigrate to America. Or I may just be thinking of the movie Titanic and replacing Jack with my poor European woman (which would have added a whole different dimension to the movie once the two leads met and fell in love – don’t you think?).
But I digress – back to the story.
In her luggage, the woman brings some crackers and cheese, because she can’t afford to purchase meals on the trip. Every night as the other passengers, luxuriously dressed, make their way to the dining room, she sits on the deck (probably pulling her tattered coat around her threadbare dress) and gazes at the stars, eating a few of her crackers and a small slice of cheese for her meager dinner. Finally, the last night of the voyage arrives and the woman dons her best dress and, clutching her tiny purse, makes her way to the dining room to enjoy one fancy meal in order to celebrate the end of the trip.
As she ponders the menu, she is confused. There are no prices! How can she order frugally, making sure she has enough money to pay, when there are no prices? When the waiter comes to take her order, she points out a salad on the menu – surely that can’t be too much – and asks him about the price.
He responds, “Oh, there is no charge for meals, ma’am. Every meal was included in the price of the cruise!”
(Insert moral of the story here – because I damn sure can’t remember what it is).
I have to tell you. This story disturbs the hell out of me. First of all, I feel very sad for the woman – who was taking a trip of a lifetime and had to subsist on crackers – NOT slathered with butter – for every meal because she didn’t know better. I also am irritated with the woman for not bothering to do her damn homework before the cruise so that she knew what was a covered expense and what was not – it’s just common sense!! Finally, what sort of a depressing story is this to tell to youngsters in order to make some sort of religious point? They couldn’t find one with a happy ending – like the Prodigal Son? That one ends with everyone incredibly relieved, happy, and eating the requisite fatted calf. Because every happy ending should involve eating a fatted calf (which was probably slathered with some sort of delicious sauce).
So, my creative and gifted friends, what was the moral of this parable? I leave it to you. As for me, I have some saltines slathered in butter to eat.