A colleague who was originally a Minister in South Africa before settling in Scotland was recounting a story of a parishioner who following bereavement had lapsed into a very deep depression. Nothing he said or did seemed to help the lady recover from the death of her mother. In desperation, he contacted an old colleague who had emigrated from Ireland to South Africa. Who said we Presbyterians don’t get around!
The old Irish Minister told my colleague to tell the lady to bake a cake and give it away to someone. Brian, was unsure, but did as he was told. A few weeks later the lady phoned him up and said, “Brian, you told me to bake a cake, and I did, and it worked. I feel better”
Not quite “Great British Bake Off” – but the forced activity of a task, completed for someone else, marked the start of one woman’s return to health and well-being. When we are down and all our energy and emotions are centred on ourselves, we can sometimes lose perspective. By thinking of others our inward attention can shift outwards to the needs of others, reframing how we ourselves are feeling. Not just that, along the way we might learn a new skill (how to bake a cake in the first place), or rediscover the joy of sharing, or learn anew that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
As you read this article we will be in the Season of Advent, preparing for the birth of Jesus – the ultimate gift we can all share in – the Christ child. How about trying to bake a cake and giving it to someone you know (or don’t know) and see what happens.