Rice with Raisins
January 22, 2007
When my siblings and I were growing up, everything centered around fairness. I’m sure Mom and Dad cultivated this as the only way to maintain their sanity with five kids each trying to claw their way to the top of the family heap, but it didn’t take us long to figure out for ourselves that it was the only way for us to keep from killing each other. Besides, when we set firm ground rules, we spent a lot more time playing according to those rules than we did fighting.
Dad was doling out M&Ms or Mom was handing out miniature marshmallows for cocoa? Twenty each. Yes, they counted. I’m sure we counted, too. If one kid dished out a treat, somebody else got to pick the first dish. And then there was the with/without rule. Somebody didn’t like onions in their hamburger, so Mom alternated. One time with onions, the next time without. Same went for the raisins in the rice pudding. Every other time, we got raisins. Not long ago, I was at the farm and Mom had rice with raisins. After savoring the treat I hadn’t tasted in twenty years or so, I couldn’t resist asking, “Who was it who didn’t like rice with raisins?” We couldn’t remember, but it wasn’t Dad, Mom, or me, and so we had rice with raisins.
When we four older ones played games, the teams were always the same—oldest and youngest against the middle two. If two kids wanted to play with the same thing, Mom set the timer. If we played a game, we played by the rules, or a strict set of alternate rules we agreed upon. If we owned something, we didn’t have to share, but, then, we couldn’t complain if somebody else didn’t want to share something they owned.
What did we get out of all this? We learned how to get along with all kinds of people, no matter how different, challenging, or just plain difficult they were. And we learned that we could work around all of the above and have a lot of fun doing it. We learned that every person is of equal value, no exceptions. And, you know what? Mom and Dad never once sat us down and told us any of this.
Oh, and why did one person get rice without raisins every other time when they were clearly in the minority? Because the rest of us didn’t mind it without raisins, even if we liked it better with raisins. That lesson was kindness. It didn’t hurt us one bit to “give” a little more to make one person happier. I suppose there was a life lesson in that, too.