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Are you fixing the plumbing, or building a mansion? Part 2 of 2

At church Sunday, someone was making an announcement about a care center that wants us to bring them snacks for the mentally handicapped residents: “The care center staff said they want HEALTHY treats, like fruit snacks and Gushers.” I don’t know what Gushers are, but the fact that they have a brand name is a bad sign. The person making the announcement turned to the side of the room where I was sitting and said, “Robyn would not approve of these ideas as healthy snacks, and neither do I, but anyway, that’s what they want.”

(I love how at church I seem to have a “rep” even though I never talk about food there.)

It’s a throwback to my days as a grad-school intern on the State Hospital Children’s Unit 15 years ago. I went to the director to plead for less sugar on the unit. I could see that the kids were constantly ill, incessantly fed antibiotics, most of them overweight, because the school and therapists rewarded them with candy, the hospital cafeteria’s nutrition was appalling, and after-school volunteers brought cookies and junk nearly every day. I was brushed off by the psychiatrist director who said, “Sugar is the only love most of these kids every get, and it’s not a big deal. We’re dealing with REAL issues here.” In other words, he was saying: nutrition doesn’t matter for these kids.

I don’t want to roll my eyes. I want to educate patiently. I hope I am always tolerant. I hope I always teach to the knowledge level of the audience. I hope I never act superior.

Whatever knowledge I have, I gained it as God was building a courtyard in my cottage, while I would have much preferred just a little cleanup. I lean on others in their areas of subject-matter expertise where I am shaky. (Computers. Applied math. Spatial puzzles and maps.)

God is making a mansion of me. When He knocks out a support beam, I want to grow from it instead of shake my fist at heaven.

Last Sunday at church, Carla, in our women’s organization, gave a lesson on the Word of Wisdom scripture. I attend a lay church, where the parishioners are also the teachers. She said my name three times during the lesson, as if she had no right to teach on nutrition because I happened to be there.

Fact is, as I told her later, it was the best lesson I’ve ever heard on the Word of Wisdom, my religion’s scripture about nutrition. I told her, “I don’t think I would have had the courage to be so bold.”

She’d researched statistics about the health risks associated with red meat, caffeine, carbonation. She indicted Utah’s prescription drug dependency (especially anti-depressants) as fueled by the culture, even reading a quote from our attorney general. She read stats about the benefits of whole grains, the benefits of drinking a lot of water.

She didn’t cover sugar, she didn’t cover the Word of Wisdom’s counsel to “eat meat sparingly,” she said that poultry and fish are good for you. But overall, I found the whole lesson to be starkly committed to the truth, relative to most lessons I hear on that topic.

She did cover the closing line of D&C 89, that if we eat whole foods, “I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” This seemed to have a profound emotional impact on the teacher. No wonder, as her husband has battled prostate cancer this past year. Who doesn’t want to put that amazing promise to the test?

She was so stunned when I gave her a hug and told her I would probably have soft-pedaled the topic, myself. Why? I hate offending people. And, as I said to her, “People are more emotional and opinionated about food than they are about religion and sex.”

Anyway, thanks for the food for thought, Jennie, and the Word of Wisdom lesson, Carla.

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