Charity and the Cyclops Cake

“Charity and the Cyclops Cake,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 70–71

Charity and the Cyclops Cake

A few weeks after my husband unexpectedly died, I came home from work tired and depressed. My sons met me at the door with two pieces of interesting information: we still had no water (it had stopped running in the middle of the night), and in about two hours there was a Cub Scout fathers and sons’ cake contest and sale, and they needed a cake.

When I walked into the kitchen, I could see that dirty dishes had multiplied alarmingly. There was hardly any space for mixing a cake, and we still needed to solve our water problem!

I located a simple cake recipe and recruited a son, against his will, to give his younger brothers directions. Then I changed clothes, rummaged around in the barn for a pipe wrench, and crawled down into the well. I had watched my husband fix the pump several times and had no doubt that in a few minutes I could have it running.

The connections looked OK. I rattled the switch box to get the earwigs out of it and tapped it with the wrench. Nothing. I kicked the pipe. Nothing. I mashed my finger while trying to unscrew the plug to prime it. It wouldn’t budge. Nothing worked.

I must have spent an hour down the well trying everything I could think of. I despaired. What on earth am I doing down in this hole hammering on a stupid pump when I should be in a nice, clean kitchen being a mother? Why do my children have to go through life and Cub Scout cake sales without a father? Is this fair?

Unable to fix the water problem, I gave up and went to the meeting—late. I sat on a chair in the back of the hall, and the boys took their sad little cake to the table at the front. There were cakes that looked like Cub Scout caps, cakes with trees and birds, cakes with patriotic flags. Then there was our cake. My sons had decorated it to look like Cyclops, with one giant eyeball made of purple and blue frosting in the middle. They had added lots of wiggly red lines to make the eyeball look bloodshot.

I sat there in the dark feeling sorry for myself. When I could keep back the tears of frustration and self-pity no longer, I slipped out and went into the rest room.

A Relief Society sister in the group saw me go. She followed me, and before long I had poured out the entire story. She put her arm around me and gave me a hug and then suggested the names of a couple of reliable plumbers. Plumbers? What a novel idea! It was revolutionary to me. When the water doesn’t work on a farm, you tell your husband, and he tinkers around the pump for a little while, and voila—everything is OK. It had never crossed my mind to call a plumber! I realized that maybe it would be all right to make decisions that were different from how my husband would have done things. Maybe things would look up after all.

At the end of the evening, the cake sale began. My boys stood on the stage, grinning and holding the grotesque eyeball cake. A sweet little grandmother ended up paying a respectable price for it. As she went up on stage to get the cake, she said she couldn’t tell exactly what it was supposed to be, but she really liked the colors. My boys, thank goodness, just smiled and kept their mouths shut.

Those two wonderful women knew about charity. In a simple way, they each saw a need and then spontaneously went out of their way to fill it. They would probably say it was just a small thing; I doubt they even remember the incident. But it was not a small thing to me.

Jesus Christ showed us our pattern. He taught us charity. He was sensitive to the needs of those He loved, and He loved them all. He teaches us likewise to be sensitive to each other, to love and comfort and lift each other. I think that’s part of the reason we are here.

That day, I learned that when it comes to practicing charity, sometimes the little things can make a big difference.

  • Nikki O. Nelson is serving in the Australia Brisbane Mission.