The Unexpected Kindness of the Chocolate Cake Lady

The Unexpected Kindness of the Chocolate Cake Lady

Growing up, nothing was ever for free… and that included kindness.  If an adult was being kind to me, one could be certain that there was some sort of price attached to that kindness… something would be required, expected, demanded of me.  I may not have known what or when, but I could be sure that it simply would be.  I am not even sure how I came to know this little fact of my life… seems like I was born with the knowledge and thankfully so because it was probably quite key to my survival.

I was 5 years old or so the first time I remember entering foster care.  5 years isn’t very old, and yet it was old enough for me to know that I didn’t want to leave what I knew for the great unknown.  Abuse is terrible, but at least it was a known abuse… but to go off to another place with unknown adults and unknown rules… well, the fear of the unknown was ten times worse than anything I had known up until that point.

Because we were removed on an emergency basis, we didn’t immediately go to a “family”.  Instead, we found ourselves being left in the care of an elderly (remember, at 5 years old, anyone with grey hair was considered elderly) lady who lived in this wondrous house with this massively lush overgrown backyard – think cross between Alice in Wonderland and The Secret Garden – and wore her hair in a large bun at the nape of her neck.  There was wood everywhere, lots of shadows and sunbeams filtering through, food in the pantry AND the fridge, and a croquet set in the backyard.  It was magical and yet, I was on my guard at all times ready and waiting for what must surely be lurking underneath all that magic.

Each night, a train would pass nearby and toot its whistle rather loudly.  Now, I am not proud to admit this, but my brother and I, even at our young ages, were scavengers.  As soon as we heard the train’s whistle, we’d scurry out of our bed and head straight to the kitchen to gorge ourselves.  (Did I mention the pantry AND the fridge had food in it?  Amazing and something we hadn’t experienced before.)  Like mice, we were hesitant… darting around, eyes on the lookout for signs that “Mrs. Elderly Bun” had heard us.  The first night, we turned on the lights and there on the table was 2 slices of chocolate cake with this awesome chocolate icing and two glasses of milk.  It was as if we’d died and gone to heaven.  My brother and I wasted no time – we downed the cake and milk and ran back to our beds faster than you could say “died and gone to heaven”.  I am pretty sure we both laid in our beds with silly, sugar induced smiles, still trying to lick any leftover chocolate from our lips until we drifted off to sleep.

Of course, me being the wiser and older one, knew that nothing came for free… come morning, there’d be a price to pay, and I was prepared to pay the price for both of us.  However, the next day, as we quietly made our way out to breakfast, nothing was said… no evidence even existed of the night’s indulgence.  It was as if it had been a wonderful dream that we had both shared.  Trying not to push our luck, we spent the day hiding in the backyard.  But eventually, night came and so did another train whistle…

I don’t know how many nights we were there, how many trains passed by, nor do I remember how many slices of cake and glasses of milk “magically” appeared.  But what I do know is that at no time did “Mrs. Elderly Bun” demand payment for her kindness.  For the first time in my young, little life, I had experienced kindness being offered “just because”.  There were no strings attached to those slices of cake or those glasses of milk… nothing lurking underneath the kindness.  I am fairly sure she knew how scary it was for us to be there.  She knew that even though we came from a seriously abusive environment, that we still preferred that known environment over the unknown one we suddenly found ourselves thrust into.  She knew that we were starving for more than just food.  And she did what she could in a way that we could understand and relate to… even if we were too young to fully grasp the greatness she was sharing with us – that real kindness isn’t something you have to pay a price for… it just is.

I wished that I could say that life changed for me after that experience… that I found more trustworthy people in my life than untrustworthy ones… that kindness without strings attached was the constant instead of the exception, but I didn’t and it wasn’t.  What I can say is that I never forgot the chocolate cake lady (as she is affectionately referred to now).  Her no-strings-attached-kindness stuck with me.  I knew it existed, and I never gave up hope of finding it again.  That knowledge helped me to survive.

To read more about “kindness”, please visit Bridget Chumbley’s blog carnaval here.

[cake image by massdistraction]

Jessica

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22 Responses to “The Unexpected Kindness of the Chocolate Cake Lady”
  1. katdish says:

    Kindness with strings attached isn’t real kindness. I’m glad you and your brother were able to stay with the chocolate cake lady. She must have been truly kind.

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    Jessica Benzakein Reply:

    She was amazing. I wished we would have said thank you before we were moved on to the next home. I wish I could remember her name. But I hope that by telling her story often, which I do, I help her legacy live on and grow in others. Her simple kindness was just one of the points of light – the first one that I can pinpoint – that I came into contact with while growing up that led me to believe that I didn’t have to stay on the path my circumstances had placed me on.

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  2. Glynn says:

    It was kindness, all right, but you also experienced grace. Good story.

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  3. Bridget says:

    The chocolate cake lady ‘got it’… she knew what true kindness was and how to pass it on. What a wonderful lesson to have taught you and your brother.

    Thanks for sharing, Jessica.

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  4. Moria says:

    I have always loved “the chocolate cake lady” story. Still makes me cry, for the kindness shown, for the abuse you have suffered and more importantly for the strength, love, and determination that God has given you to not repeat your past, to rise from the ashes and show your children a better way.

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    Jessica Benzakein Reply:

    Hey Moria – yes, this is an old story for all my friends, but thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  5. You brought tears to my eyes with this post. I’m glad you had the chocolate cake lady in your life, even if for only a moment.

    -FringeGirl

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    Jessica Benzakein Reply:

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting Tricia. Like I said before, I wished I had been able to let Chocolate Cake Lady know just how much she impacted by life… but since I cannot, all I can do is practice her example with all that I come into contact with.

    PS I checked out your blog – hilarious! Added it to my blogroll and looking forward to making it a daily staple!

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  6. Helen says:

    Wherever chocolate cake lady is, God bless her!

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    Jessica Benzakein Reply:

    Thank you, Helen. I will certainly give that a loud AMEN!!

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  7. Kathleen Overby says:

    Oh, this lady was an angel, so you could define kindness and grace later. Like knowing what it could be. This made me gulp. I hope somewhere sometime to have offered this to someone who needed it.

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  8. Kevin M. says:

    “Her no-strings-attached-kindness stuck with me. I knew it existed, and I never gave up hope of finding it again. That knowledge helped me to survive.” Kindness has the power to have this impact. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  9. Kirsten says:

    She knew grace, and therefore was able to offer grace. I am so glad you are able to see the gift for what it was.

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  10. I just wanted to share this comment emailed to me by my sweet friend Jacki Q (our sons are bestest buddies):

    Hey, Jess – I had a lump in my throat as soon as I saw the title to your post today. That was probably the first time you met Jesus! :-)

    Jacki – you are so totally right!!! Of course, now I am jilted and will not be able to as easily admire the traditional Jesus pictures out there… I need one of an elderly lady with her grey hair wrapped up in a large bun at the nap of her neck holding a slice of cake and a glass of milk.

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  11. Lorrie says:

    Those are the folks that will have honkin crowns in heaven! :-)

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  12. nAncY says:

    you make me wonder about this lady, and how it came to be that she took little children into her home and seemed to know just how to be that kind. to be able to pass that kindness on to someone else is probably the best way to repay her. i think that is what she would want.
    what a good story of kindness.

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  13. Louise says:

    Thank you for this story. I work in a homeless shelter and so many of clients never had a chance to encounter a chocalate cake lady. I wonder what difference it would have made if just once they had encountered kindess without payback.

    You were blessed as a child and I thank you for blessing me with your story today and I pray the chocolate cake lady has had a lifetime full of blessings.

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  14. People like that don’t worry about their name being known or thank yous; they are only concerned with the needs they can meet. Thank you for the insights.

    Larry

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  15. Babybloomr says:

    Beautifully written, and challenging– I want to be someone’s chocolate cake lady! (Except for maybe the bun part. Not a good look for me.)

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  16. What a lovely story. The “Cake Lady”it would seem left you lasting memories whichhave blessed and stuck for a long time. She helped shape your young mind. You as well help shape the minds and hearts of so many with your writing…..Thank you…Kristi

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  17. You are a good writer. You drew me in. Your words are crisp and they absorbed me without my knowing it. I just plunged. My. This was poignant.

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  18. J Baldwin says:

    I want to thank the blogger very much not only for this post but also for his all previous efforts. I found deliberatelegacies.com to be very interesting. I will be coming back to deliberatelegacies.com for more information.

    [Reply]

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