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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Before You Go: Secret Ingredient

CRL columnist John Gray tells a story of forgiveness.

Kenny Hickenbottom was a nice little boy who came from a strange world, at least in the eyes of his classmates. His family owned the town pet store and while selling goldfish and dog food was perfectly normal, it was the spiders, snakes and lizards that Kenny took care of after school that made him an outcast in the eighth grade. After all, who plays with such creepy, crawly things?

His favorite reptile was his pet iguana, Simon.

Once, when Kenny was nine, he brought Simon to school for show and tellHe concluded his presentation by kissing the lizard on the head, a gesture that made his classmates groan with disgust.

One student, a blonde with pigtails named Becky Worthington, called him “Creepy Kenny” after his display of affection, and because of her popularity, the nickname stuck.

The name-calling continued for the next three years, and Kenny often found himself sitting alone at lunch or playing on the swings by himself at recess.

One day, the kind boy asked his mother why children like Becky were so mean. She explained that nobody is born that way, telling Kenny that kids are a lot like Jell-O: What you put in the mix early on will be stuck there once the Jell-O hardens.

She told her son, “If you toss sliced bananas and raspberries in the Jell-O liquid, then put it in the fridge, it’s very hard to separate them later.”

When she saw Kenny didn’t grasp her analogy, she shared a secret about Becky that few people knew. His mother explained that Becky once had a twin sister named Rose who died of leukemia at the age of five. His mom said that Becky seemed to change after that loss, becoming meaner.

Even though she had been so unkind to him, Kenny was sad over Becky’s heartbreak and asked his mother if there was any way to change the Jell-O once it was hardened by life. She told him it was difficult, but it never hurt to try.

Since it was time for the Spring Fling dance at school, Kenny came up with a surprise he hoped would win him some friends and, perhaps, change the Jell-O when it came to Becky.

On the day of the dance, Kenny arrived with 100 green cupcakes carefully arranged to look like a gigantic lizard. Since they were double chocolate with vanilla custard inside, the kids swarmed the display to grab one.

As the children devoured the dessert, the boy they called Creepy Kenny announced that there was a “secret ingredient” inside one of the cupcakes and he made certain that the special cupcake was given to Becky Worthington.

Everyone in the room stopped chewing and looked at her.

Becky, assuming the worst, spit the cupcake out, causing everyone to laugh.

Kenny Hickenbottom slowly approached, took the half-eaten cupcake from her hand, and showed Becky a small red rose petal made of sugar hiding inside with the custard.

“I don’t understand,” Becky said.

“I made two cupcake lizards,” Kenny explained. “One for school and one we sold outside the pet store last Saturday. The cupcakes went for a buck a piece.”

“Why?” she asked.

“So, I could raise money to buy a beautiful rose bush, which will be planted in front of the school to honor the twin sister you lost.”

Becky was speechless for a moment, finally asking, “Why would you do that for me when I’ve been so mean to you?”

Kenny answered, “The secret ingredient in my cupcakes was forgiveness.”

From that moment forward, no one ever called him Creepy Kenny ever again.          

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